Monday 30 March 2015

Jack Ma comes calling again, discusses e-commerce future with Modi

Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, on Monday called on Prime Ministerhere. The two are learnt to have discussed the potential of e-commerce and mobile telephony in driving small and medium enterprises, among other things.

Alibaba’s entry into India’s e-commerce sector (currently, the company has business-to-business operations) might also have been discussed.

Government officials declined to comment on the issues discussed at the meeting.

On Monday, a government tweet announced the Chinese billionaire had called on Modi. Also present at the meeting was Amitabh Kant, secretary, department of industrial policy and Promotion.

Both Modi and Ma had attended the last rites of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s first prime minister, in that country on Sunday.

Ma had last visited India in November 2014. Many see his current visit as an indication of his interest to invest. He is expected to meet Bhavish Aggarwal, founder and chief executive of cab aggregator Ola. Last year, SoftBank, an investor in Alibaba, had infused capital in Ola. It is unclear whether Ma is looking to take stake in Ola.

has also been in talks with Snapdeal for possible fund investment, though valuation issues might have stalled the talks. Last year, SoftBank had infused $627 million in Snapdeal. So far, SoftBank has committed $10-billion investment in India.

Alibaba’s only investment in India has been in pre-paid mobile wallet Paytm.

Sources said Alibaba, which had made headlines last year with a $25-billion initial public offering, was seeking to invest in small new-age companies, adding the company was looking at long-term dividends from India’s growing e-commerce market. The investment allocation for India, it seems, could run into billions of dollars.

During his November 2014 visit, Ma had said he was inspired by Modi’s approach. Last year, several internet leaders such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook had visited India and met Modi.

As of September 2014-end, Alibaba’s gross merchandise value (GMV) stood at $296 billion. India’s e-commerce majors Flipkart and Snapdeal are aiming at GMVs of $8 billion and $10 billion, respectively, by the end of this year.

American e-commerce giant Amazon had entered the Indian market in 2013, under


When reports emerged earlier this month that the Amazon Webstore would shut down, it revealed a lot about the state of B2B eCommerce market, and how the underdogs facilitating the sector beat out one of the world’s largest, and most successful, digital commerce platforms.
According to Motley Fool’s perspective, Amazon’s decision to shutter its Webstore is an indication that the corporation aimed to focus on building its own brand, rather than aid online sales for other companies. And that, experts say, is where eCommerce startups swooped in to grab the market.
Amazon remains the world’s largest digital retailer, having seen $29.3 billion in net revenue in the most recent fourth quarter. The majority of that, $23.1 billion, came from its direct-to-consumer services, but the rest was generated from the fees taken from merchants using Amazon to sell their products through the company’s platform. While they do not represent the majority of cash flow for Amazon, those fees led to a nearly 38 percent spike in revenue compared to the year prior.
The corporation’s fourth quarter results revealed that sales through Amazon Marketplace, which facilitates other merchants’ sales, made up more than one-fifth of Amazon’s sales during that time.
So why did Amazon decide to close its doors to these merchants? It’s not the first to do so. EBay similarly ended its Magento Go SaaS aimed at small- and medium-sized merchants, the Motley Fool pointed out. The move, some experts said, represents the decision among major online retailers to focus on their own business and begin to pivot away from the B2B sector.
Instead, startups like Bigcommerce and Shopify have filled the gap for smaller online retailers. According to reports, when eBay nixed its software service, it recommended that the retailers migrate operations to Bigcommerce. The Shopify platform, however, is the lead eCommerce platform provider in the industry, reports said, facilitating digital sales for more than 150,000 companies across the globe.
And while these startups are great for SMEs, reports noted that major corporations like Google and Tesla Motors similarly use the service.

Snapdeal buys e-commerce management firm Unicommerce

Online marketplace, promoted by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd, has bought Unicommerce eSolutions Pvt. Ltd, an e-commerce management software and fulfilment solution provider, for an undisclosed amount, official documents show. Unicommerce will be merged with Jasper, according to documents filed with the registrar of companies.
Separately, Snapdeal is investing Rs.25 crore in its wholly owned logistics unit, Vulcan Express Pvt. Ltd, taking another step towards building a large, integrated logistics network. Vulcan currently manages transit warehouses for Snapdeal across the country, according to two people aware of the development. Snapdeal and Unicommerce did not respond to Mint’s queries. Softbank-funded Snapdeal has been on a shopping spree after it received $627 million from the Japanese investor in October. Earlier this month, it bought a 20% stake in logistics firm Gojavas for Rs.120 crore. The firm is also close to announcing the acquisition of online recharge and coupon portal Freecharge, Mint reported earlier this month. The acquisition of Unicommerce will help Snapdeal manage everything from vendors to inventory and from warehouse to shipment and returns. Mint reported on 18 December that Unicommerce was in talks with Snapdeal for a potential acquisition. Unicommerce, which currently provides its software to companies including Myntra, Snapdeal, Jabong, Groupon and HealthKart, has received investment from Nexus Venture Partners and Snapdeal founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal. Founded in 2012 by three graduates from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi—Ankit Pruthi, Karun Singla and Vibhu Garg—Unicommerce offers a pay-per-use Web-based solution that helps small merchants and e-commerce firms manage orders from the time they are placed till when products are delivered. Logistics is a key element of e-commerce and most large e-commerce firms such as Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon have their own last-mile logistics support in order to wield better control over the delivery time and experience. This helps these firms to deliver products fast, sometimes in less than a day. Until recently, Snapdeal had stayed away from putting in place its own in-house logistics, working with third-party delivery companies such as Blue Dart, GoJavas and Ecom Express. However, after the SoftBank investment in October, Snapdeal has moved fast to build a logistics network. Snapdeal plans to invest more than $150-200 million over the next year in supply chain and logistics, co-founder Bansal said on 17 March. The firm, which raised more than $1 billion last year from investors, is eyeing as many as five acquisitions in the technology space this year, Mint reported in February.
 The firm currently claims to offer close to 10 million products across over 500 categories on its platform, with over 40 million registered users. Online retail is expected to be worth $6 billion this year, a 70% increase over 2014 sales of $3.5 billion, according to technology researcher Gartner Inc. E-commerce represents less than 4% of the total retail market, according to a Gartner report published in October.

Friday 27 March 2015

3-hour delivery in India? Flipkart says yes

Flipkart is reportedly exploring ways to reduce delivery times to as little as three hours. The Indian ecommerce company is working on the logistics and evaluating the kind of products that can be a part of the initiative. It could introduce this service in three to four cities as early as July this year.
The customers are, of course, expected to pay extra for the services, but it is a service that could be used in emergencies. Flipkart currently offers same day delivery in 10 cities, for INR 140 (US$2.20) per item. It also requires you to place an order before 12:00 pm. Their ‘In-a-day guarantee’ service is available in 50 cities, where the customer receives the order the next day for INR 90 (US$1.42) per item.
To enable the three hour delivery, Flipkart’s retailers are expected to increase their number of warehouses and manpower. At present, the company owns 13 warehouses and over 12,000 employees helping with last-mile delivery.
Last year, Snapdeal offered same day delivery free of charge while Amazon India launched its own guaranteed one-day delivery. For INR 149 (US$2.35) per order Amazon customers can avail the same day delivery. INR 99 (US$1.56) per order guarantees the next-day delivery. But the ecommerce giant is capable of drastically reducing delivery times to one-hour like in Manhattan for Amazon Prime users.
Amazon is also working on introducing Prime to India. American Prime customers get access to more than 15,000 movies and TV shows and receive free two-day shipping. Last year, Flipkart launched Flipkart First, an annual subscription service which is similar to Amazon Prime.
Heavy competition in the Indian ecommerce space is pushing companies to introduce new features. Customers are set to be the winners.

Thursday 26 March 2015

Snapdeal sets $2 billion sales target for home and living business

Snapdeal sets $2 billion sales target for home and living business

Online marketplace Snapdeal is expecting its home and living business, one of its fastest growing categories, to reach close to $2 billion (around Rs.12,460 crore today) in gross merchandise value (GMV) or cost of goods sold, by the year ending 31 March 2017. The home segment contributes close to 20% of the overall volume and is likely to touch 40% by the end of the next fiscal year, said Tony Navin, senior vice-president (home and electronics) at Snapdeal., promoted by Jasper Infotech Pvt. Ltd, is expanding its seller base in the category, increasing the assortment of products and launching exclusive products to meet the target. The company is expecting to close fiscal year 2016 with $1 billion of GMV for the home and living segment, which includes kitchenware, home decor, furniture, furnishing, toys and hardware fixtures. “Home and living is a good $35 billion industry growing at probably about 15% CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) year-on-year. Close to 90% of this category is highly unorganized, highlighting an opportunity to reach a massive scale online,” said Navin.
The company is looking to increase its seller base to 100,000 for the home and living category alone by March 2017. Snapdeal aims to expand the number of sellers to one million in the next three years from 100,000 merchants currently. Within home and living, furnishing and kitchenware are the biggest segments for Snapdeal as it sees healthy repeat buys. “Frequency of purchase is very high for these categories,” said Navin. Online retailers are trying to push sales of home-living and fashion products given the segment offers higher margins than electronics, which currently contributes 50% of revenues.
Home and living typically witnesses gross margins as high as 50-60%, according to industry estimates. Home furnishing accounts for about 4%, or Rs.1,059 crore, of the overall Rs.24,046 crore online retailing revenue by the end of December 2014, according to a March report by Internet and Mobile Association of India. As part of the expansion strategy, Snapdeal recently introduced services category on its platform allowing consumers to book and pay online for services such as furniture installation, home-cleaning, pest-control or even basic jobs such as electrical fittings or plumbing. “Overall home category has scaled up primarily because of getting more sellers, more assortments and ensuring that there is 360 degree coverage from product to services. Our idea is to help you find everything you would want to buy for your home and also get the services around it too,” said Navin. Given 99% of the services industry is unorganized, Snapdeal’s biggest constraint was to ensure that these services providers are trained and are verified by the police. To tackle these, Snapdeal has tied up with third-party partners such as Godrej HiCare (pest control services provider), blue-collar services provider EasyFix to order handyman services online. Snapdeal offers these services in close to 100 cities currently and is looking to expand them further. Delhi-based
Snapdeal will also aggressively promote its hardware and fixture segment in the home and living category. “We will be adding more assortments here as this is a large segment which is highly unorganized,” said Navin. The company will also introduce consulting services on home decor and interior designing, he added. Snapdeal, founded by Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, claims to offer close to 10 million products across 500-plus categories on its platform with over 40 million registered users.

Global retailers looking at India as potential sourcing hub

Global retailers planning to set up shop in India are also looking at the country as a sourcing hub for their global operations, according to top executives of such firms. “I think opening Indian fashion to the rest of the world is an opportunity,” said Bonnie Brooks, vice-chairman, Hudson’s Bay Co., which owns retail chains such as Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue.
She spoke on the sidelines of the Indian Fashion Forum (IFF) in Mumbai. Last year, a management team from the luxury department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue was in India to look at retail opportunities. “For Saks Fifth Avenue, India is on the horizon in the foreseeable future,” said Brooks, without giving details. During her visit in Mumbai, Brooks visited the showrooms of fashion designers Gaurav Gupta and Sabyasachi. She was also interested in visiting high-end jewellery retailers, she said. In January, Ikea India Pvt. Ltd, the local unit of Swedish furniture firm Ikea Group which got foreign direct investment approval to open stores in India, said it plans to double its sourcing from the country by 2020. Currently, Ikea sources products worth $370 million from India. It is looking at increasing its number of suppliers for existing home furnishing categories such as textiles and rugs, as well as in new categories such as furniture, mattresses, metal, plastics and lighting. The firm is also looking at sourcing goods made from local sustainable materials such as bamboo, jute and acacia. Indian handicrafts, one of the country’s largest exports, are also being sourced by luxury stores in the West. “We will end the financial year 2015 with revenues of Rs.27,000 crore, a 24% growth over last year’s Rs.21,500 crore,” said Rakesh Kumar, executive director, Exports Promotion Council for Handicrafts, adding that these products are showcased in the gift, furniture, home, fashion and lifestyle sections of high-end department stores such as Bloomingdales, Gallery Lafayette and Harrods. The Indian handicrafts market is estimated to be worth Rs.46,000 crore; exports account for close to 60% of the overall market. Moreover, 60% of the Indian handicrafts exports goes to the 10 quality-conscious markets, including the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, said Kumar. Jewellery exports from India are also growing.
However, unlike handicrafts, most Indian jewellery is mass-produced and sold at value retail chains such as Wal-Mart, J.C. Penney and Sears. “India’s market share in the global jewellery market has increased from 0.5% in 1997 to 12.5%, accounting for $12 billion-worth of exports for Indian jewellers,” said Pankaj Parekh, vice-chairman, Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC), a lobby group. Less than 1% of the overall exports is couture, he added. Likewise Indian fashion. While India is known as a textile and apparel manufacturing hub, Indian fashion caters largely to the Indian diaspora. “Indian fashion can’t be showcased in department stores,” said Sunil Sethi, managing director, Alliance Merchandising Pvt. Ltd, a sourcing and buying agency. Over the years, the firm has taken more than 25 Indian fashion designers to the international platform, selling their products under their own brands to stores such as Selfridges, Golf & Co, TsUM, The Conran Shop, Habitat and Coin. “It will be difficult for any of the Indian cities to become a global fashion capital in the near term... India’s fashion sector is very nascent and is considered to be less than 2% compared to the global market.
 Even Bangladesh and Vietnam, estimated to be a tenth of India’s size, compete strongly against India in the global apparel export,” said Neelesh Hundekari, principal and head, luxury and lifestyle practice, India, at global consultancy firm A.T. Kearney at IFF 2015. China’s contribution to global apparel exports is about 40% while India’s is 5%, he said. Meanwhile, Sethi of Alliance Merchandising is working with BHLDN Llc, a retail chain specialising in wedding wear to showcase Indian designers. A small number of fashion and jewellery designers have made a name globally, securing orders from celebrities. Lady Gaga and Nicole Scherzinger have worn ensembles of fashion designers Alpana and Nikhil. Jewellery designer Viren Bhagat, who makes only 60 pieces a year, is one of the most-sought after contemporary jewellery designers, according to Christie’s, a New York-based auctioneer.

Monday 23 March 2015

Amazon to take haute couture to streets with clothing store launch

In a bid to move deeper into the apparel business, online marketplace Amazon has launched a designer clothing store. It has partnered with the Fashion Design Council of India ( FDCI) to pick talent from fashion schools, as well as established designers to sell on the portal.

"Fashion is one of our top three categories on Amazon and the challenge is to keep up with the growth," said Vikas Purohit, head of fashion at Amazon India. Amazon says its fashion business has grown fourfold in  .. 

three months.

"There is an ecosystem of graduates from schools like NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), who can't afford to buy a shop or invest in rentals. A lot of dreams die there. We are giving these designers a platform for their work and only charge a commission based on sale."

The company is sponsoring the India Fashion Week, which begins on March 27 in Delhi. "We have shared data with our designer sellers to help them create products targeted to a wider audience," Purohit said.

The online store will be launched with about 20 designers.

It hopes to ramp up the number to more than 100 in a few months. "FDCI is helping us scout for new talent," he said.

The launch of an online designer store by Amazon would give "a much-needed shot in the arm" to the industry, said designer Rajesh Pratap Singh. "This association is bound to further expose designers and craftsmen to the strengths and realities of doing business in the digital world

With fashion being the largest and the fastest growing category in Indian ecommerce, top marketplaces are heavily investing in boosting this high-margin business to reach profitability soon.

Last month, said it bought, a site that sells designer brands, to strengthen its fashion business.

India's biggest marketplace, Flipkart, already owns fashion-focussed Myntra. Lifestyle portal Jabong is backed by Rocket Internet. 

Sunday 22 March 2015

Indian E-Commerce May Grow 50 Percent in Next 5 Years: Survey

As Internet penetration in India is on the rise, the e-commerce sector in the country is likely to witness a growth of over 50 percent in the next 5 years, says the Economic Survey.
The government document, however, raised concerns over consumer safeguards and proposed amendments to the Consumer Protection Act.
"India's e-commerce market is expected to grow by more than 50 percent in the next five years," the Economic Survey 2014-15, tabled in Parliament on Friday by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, said.
As per industry body Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), as of October 2014 India had 278 million Internet users.
On the hurdles being faced by the sector, the Economic Survey said: "Inventory management, logistics planning and resource availability are important hurdles for online retail in India."
It further said: "Consumer safeguard being another concern for consumers of e-commerce, the government proposes including sufficient provisions in the ongoing amendment to the Consumer Protection Act, 1986."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set up a Task Force last year to give suggestions to drive up revenues of India Post in with various services including e-commerce.
The Task Force, which submitted its report in January this year, recommended setting up a holding company under the Department of Posts to roll out of banking, insurance and e-commerce services by the world's largest postal network.
The task force added that rural India should be the main target area. India has a postal network of over 1,55,015 post offices of which (89.76 percent) are in the rural areas.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has on several occasions said India Post with its unparalleled rural, urban and semi-urban reach is best suited to offer delivery services to e-commerce players.
According to consultancy firm PwC, the e-commerce sector has grown by 34 percent (CAGR) since 2009 to touch $16.4 billion (roughly Rs. 1,01,375 crores) in 2014 and is further expected to touch $22 billion in 2015.

Another Startup Quikr To Hit Billion-Dollar Valuation In India, Asia's Top E-Commerce Market

As investors scramble to plow money into India’s on-fire e-commerce sector, Asia’s top and one of theworld’s fastest growing, another Indian e-commerce player is set to enter the billion dollar club. Online classifieds startup Quikr is now valued at $1 billion with a fresh round of fund infusion of $150 million from existing investors like Tiger Global and eBay as well as new investor, Steadview Capital, reports say.
Quikr currently enables 1.5 million monthly transactions amounting to $5 billion of commerce, a four-and-a-half times increase in the past year. The latest round is yet to be officially announced, but its founder Pranay Chulet is quoted as saying the Bangalore-headquartered Quikr will grow to ten times its size in the next three years. Such growth projections at Quikr and other leading Indian e-commerce startupsare whipping up an investment fury.
Quikr had raised $60 million from Tiger Global and others in Sept 2014 at a reported valuation of $400 million. Quikr’s main rival OLX is backed by South Africa’s internet group, Naspers .
Quikr is a rendering of the popular American classifieds platform Craigslist, but with an Indian twist. Its main verticals include cars, real estate, jobs, household electronics and services. It also has newer categories like entertainment catering to movie-crazy India where film makers, technicians and actors list their services. Its recent innovation Quikr NXT is an instant messenger-type experience, where buyers and sellers can chat and exchange photos but without having to reveal phone numbers.
“We are initiating the Indian masses into transacting online,” Quikr’s founder and CEO Pranay Chulet said in a recent conversation with Forbes. Many Indians in the hinterland are selling farm produce, such as “desi ghee (Indian clarified butter), mithai (Indian sweets) and even buffaloes,” on the platform, he said. Users have so far sold over 1,000 buffaloes on Quikr, he said. In the jobs category, blue-collar workers like maids, cooks, chauffeurs and nannies are responding to and placing employment ads.
Chulet said India’s growing affluence and changing social mindsets explain the growth of the used goods section of his platform. “Indians no longer buy products for life, that explains the supply. At the same time, there is huge demand from a bigger India which aspires to own but cannot afford expensive goods.” Also, Chulet said, startups like his are removing the taboo associated with buying used goods. “Younger Indians are buying everything from cellphones to treadmills on our platform and realize it is a smarter way to acquire.”

Tuesday 17 March 2015

E-commerce beats FMCG as hottest career option at B-schools

 The latest vindication of the soaring popularity of e-commerce as a career destination has come from the Nielsen Campus Track Business School 2015 survey, where students across 35 top business schools have, for the first time ever, voted it as the most preferred sector for employment.

According to the Nielsen Campus Track Business School survey 2015, shared exclusively with ET, the e-commerce sector (28%) came out on top, followed by FMCG (24%), foreign banks (21%), financial institutions/credit rating agencies (19%), management consultancies (19%) and large business conglomerates (18%).

In terms of preferred sectors, e-commerce has steadily been gaining ground, from third spot in the 2012 survey and second place last year.

The survey further drives home how brisk startup activity, big-ticket fund-raising, multiple success stories and a cool quotient among students is fuelling huge curiosity and interest in joining the sector.

An earlier ET story with data from 11 top B-schools had revealed that about one in every nine students from the 2013-15 batch would be joining an e-commerce firm or startup after graduation as compared to just one in 19 students in the 2012-14 batch.

Though HUL still remains the most preferred company overall in the list for the graduating batch of 2015, e-commerce has displaced FMCG, the most preferred sector for the past five years. The banking sector has also staged a big comeback.

According to Nielsen, top companies in the e-commerce sector have steadily been moving up in the campus recruiter index (CRI), which is the weighted summation of companies' goodwill across attributes. Even though none of them have made it to the top 10 list yet, Flipkart is at 26, Amazon at 34 and Snapdeal at 49 this time.

In the last survey, Flipkart was at 40, Amazon at 46 and Snapdeal didn't figure in the rankings at all.

"Established e-commerce companies have moved up significantly in the recruiters' list in the past couple of years — and it's a wait and watch to see them enter the top 10 lists. This may be attributed to the fact that many are startups, or with increasing funding are expanding their business over time," says Ajay Macaden, executive director, Nielsen India.

According to the CRI rankings for the year, FMCG companies in the top 10 are HUL (at first place) and Coca Cola (at sixth place). Banks have strengthened their position with ICICI Bank (second), HDFC Bank (third) and HSBC (fifth).

Asked about their dream employer, respondents across B-schools polled HUL (17%), ICICI Bank (13%) and Google (11% ) as the top three. The survey is currently in its 15th year and measures and monitors attitudes and perceptions of students in relation to career preferences and potential recruiters.

HUL has maintained its status as the most preferred employer for four years in a row and as a dream company across sectors for the sixth year running. "At HUL, the ability to identify, hire, groom and retain the best talent has been honed and developed over several decades and remains one of the most important agenda of my leadership team," Sanjiv Mehta, CEO and MD, HUL told ET in an email interview.

According to Mehta, HUL consistently drives the agenda of being the 'employer of choice' in campuses as well as with experienced professionals in the external market.

"Having ensured we have recruited the best talent we then lay the right foundation through our 15-18 months' cross-functional training under the Unilever Future Leaders Programme. Many of them also get international stints. What makes this programme unique is the strong support system of senior leaders who act as coaches, tutors and mentors to support and shape the trainees," says Mehta.

The company also ensures that talent gets big roles and responsibilities early on in their career. Many talented young people are also motivated to join because of the company's philosophy of 'doing well by doing good', adds Mehta.

As far as viewing e-commerce as a potential threat in the coming years is concerned, Mehta says the HUL brand has stood the test of time and is kept contemporary and reinvigorated.

"We have strengthened our position as the employer of choice over the past few decades, irrespective of market dynamics and new emerging sectors. This has been possible due to our close connect with campus students over the years and offering them value and experiences which are aligned to their expectations," said Mehta.

"We have also found more new-age ways of engaging with the wider campus audience through digital platforms," he adds.

The survey also reveals that there is an increase in salary expectations — students now expect Rs 17.8 lakh from their most preferred employer as compared to Rs 17 lakh last year.

Thursday 12 March 2015

InMobi, Snapdeal could get boost from Google, Alibaba

 Two Indian firms could get a boost from tech majors in what might turn out to be the first direct investment in the country by Google Inc and Alibaba.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is in talks with Indian online marketplace Snapdeal over a potential cash investment, a person familiar with the negotiations said.
The source, who declined to be named because talks are not public, said on Wednesday that negotiations were "ongoing".
Alibaba is "looking, but there's still no deal", the source added.
Alibaba could not be reached immediately for comment, and a Snapdeal representative declined to comment.
Alibaba and Snapdeal have spoken in the past, a second person familiar with the matter confirmed. Investor interest was "high", the source said, without giving any detail on any current negotiations.
Media reports have said Snapdeal is seeking $1 billion in its latest funding round to fuel growth as it competes with bigger rivals and
In October last year, Snapdeal secured a $627 million investment from Japan's Softbank, itself an early backer of Alibaba. Alibaba, which has been eyeing the Indian market for months, has yet to invest directly in the e-commerce space.
SoftBank also has an investment in mobile advertising venture InMobi, which is in talks for a Google buyout, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said.
Discussions between Google and InMobi, who have not made their negotiations public, are in early stages. The source, who asked not to be named, said Google had not yet detailed its terms and conditions for the deal.
InMobi helps companies target the users of phones and mobile devices in their advertising.
Google and InMobi were negotiating issues that included how many unique users InMobi has, a key to its value, the source said.
"They are ironing out issues on what InMobi's parameters are, and whether it matches Google's," the source said, adding that InMobi would likely be valued at around $1 billion.
InMobi and Google both declined to comment.
Google Capital, the group's investment arm, has set up shop in India's Silicon Valley, but the parent company has yet to invest directly in the country's Internet and e-commerce sector.
"Advertising is a big revenue generator for Google. As people move from browser or desktop searches, mobile advertising is becoming more important," Neil Shah, an analyst at Counterpoint Technology Market Research, said.

Flipkart launches new home styling solutions category

Aiming to be the destination for end-to-end home styling solutions, Flipkart announced the launch of its home category today, which will offer a range of national and international brands at ‘great prices’.
Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce marketplace with over 5 lakh products and 1,000+ brands , says this category will offer a comprehensive selection under furnishing, d├ęcor, lighting, household items and DIY tools to customers.
Flipkart will provide an avenue for artisans and entrepreneurs in the home space to reach out to a wider audience base with a huge range of new-age, contemporary and ethnic products.
What is on offer?
Exclusive introductory offers on top of the line brands like Bombay Dyeing, Portico, Bosch, Prestige, Hawkins, Philips, Eveready etc.
Range of items like furnishing, glassware, marble items, cotton and steel/bronze products
Authentic and high-quality products directly from manufactures in different regions – Jaipur, Salem, Tirupur to name a few
Ankit Nagori, SVP- Marketplace, Flipkart said, “Currently the online home market stands at Rs 1,400 crore – and this is one of the categories that has a lot of potential, but has been largely untapped by e-commerce players. We intend to be the ultimate destination for home product shoppers, offering buyers a unique shopping experience, enabling them to browse, compare, review and make purchases effortlessly.”
Leveraging Flipkart’s logistics, sellers will be able to reach to all parts of India and customers will be able to get authentic products from every region in India.
Ankit further added, “We will be introducing additional products in this category very soon which will enable us to further expand our offerings to our customer base. Backed by our superior supply chain capability, we are positive that we will transform the way shoppers indulge in this category.”

GroupOn looking to raise $20 Million for its India arm from Sequoia

TechCrunch reports that popular local deals and ecommerce place GroupOn India, is now looking to raise a $20 Million round from Sequoia, to further consolidate its business in this part of the world. GroupOn India is the Indian arm of the U.S.-based parent company.
While GroupOn has already made clear that it plans an aggressive expansion in Asia, it is believed that the expansion is not just limited to a stake sell-off in Ticket Monster. GroupOn India, the Indian arm of the parent company in the U.S., is looking to pick up outside investment, and Sequoia is leading the push, with a $20 Million stake.
TC further reports sources saying that the deal has already been announced to the company’s senior staff, but is yet to be public. The strategy here is, to make GroupOn India, more autonomous from its parent company in the U.S., and raise two further rounds, which includes one more in 2015 and one in 2016.
Groupon India, which was formed as a result of the acquisition of Indian-born So Sasta in Februray 2011, hasn;t really been a profit making business for the parent company. So much for the fact, that rest of the world accounted for a meagre $101 Million of the company’s $925 million in revenues, and Groupon noted that Ticket Monster accounted for a large part of revenue growth (but also losses) in the region.
Though e-commerce continues to be a hot market in India, GroupOn hasn’t been able to successfully break into the field. While companies like Flipkart and Snapdeal continue to raise billions, GroupOn has been largely struiggling to break into mainstream e-com properties.
However, an investment as big as $20 Million (though no match for what Flipkart and Snapdeal and others have raised), could finally breathe in a fresh lease of life into GroupOn’s India business.
Noting and acknowledging that it is looking into options for its Asia business, Groupon sid on the last earnings report, that “it is exploring a range of financing and strategic alternatives for its Asian businesses, including Ticket Monster. As part of that process, multiple parties have expressed preliminary interest in Ticket Monster, although it is too early to comment on structure, pricing or the likelihood of a transaction, as the process is still underway”

Online grocer raises funds from Shrem Strategies, launches operations in Pune

Mumbai-based online grocery retail store has closed a fresh round of funding from Shrem Strategies, which it will use for expansion to Pune, a company release today said. After making a soft launch in Pune, the company commenced full operations in the city from mid-February.
This newspaper had reported in January, quoting sources, that the e-tailer was in talks to raise fresh funds and is likely to close the round by March. While the company did not disclose the quantum of funds raised in this round, sources had said that it would be a "significantly large" round of around $15 million-$20 million.
Founded in 2012, had last raised funds in January 2014, when it received an investment of $5 million from Mumbai-based realty development group Karmvir Avant Group. In 2013, had raised an undisclosed amount of investment form Bennett Coleman & Company Limited' Springboard fund. Prior to this, the company had also received angel funding from a few investors.
"The launch of our services in Pune coupled with a fresh round of funding, sets us on our way to the next phase of our vision, which is to take our brand to as many Indian households as possible," said LocalBanya co-founder Rashi Choudhary. "We have gained a lot of experience here in Mumbai and feel this is the right time to expand our operations. If all goes well, we hope to be in four-five additional metros very shortly." had been talking about raising more funds since September 2014, as the company has been looking to expand its presence outside Mumbai and also to compete with players like the well-funded According to a senior company source, has set a target of expanding to seven cities within 2015, starting with Pune. The other cities that are part of the expansion plan, include, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Kolkata.
The existing investors in include Bennett, Coleman and Co Ltd's Springboard, and Karmvir Avant Infotech Pvt Ltd.
"Localbanya is one of the established players in the online grocery segment in Mumbai having been in operation for close to three years. They have put in place an aggressive expansion plan for 2015 to take the brand across India," said Nitan Chatwal, promoter of Shrem Strategies. "The online grocery market is set to grow very rapidly in India over the coming years and we felt now is a good time to get in."