From an online book e-tailer in 2007 to becoming India’s largest Internet firm in 2017, Flipkart Ltd can be easily termed as the “come-back” kid in the country’s start-up and e-commerce ecosystem.
Even as a few global investors had written-off Flipkart’s growth story last year, the Bengaluru-based company has raised the biggest ever investment from Japan’s SoftBank Vision Fund to make it a two-horse race against arch rival Amazon in the Indian e-commerce market, which is likely to touch $100 billion by 2020.
With the latest round, Flipkart has about $4 billion in cash reserves. The company had last raised about $1.5 billion from Microsoft, Tencent and Ebay in April and the fresh funding also gives a partial exit to Tiger Global, which was one of Flipkart’s early and largest investors till April. The funding also came in after Flipkart’s proposed takeover of Snapdeal, SoftBank’s portfolio company, was called off last week.
According to investors and experts in the e-commerce ecosystem, the funding by Softbank in Flipkart paves way for a bigger consolidation and that India will not see a monopoly in the e-commerce market unlike China and the US. There would be two big players in the market by 2020.
“We can expect some transition point, some consolidation and also some pivots in the business model,” said Vikram Gupta, founder of venture capital firm IvyCap Ventures. He also hinted that going forward there could be chances of Flipkart and Paytm, in which Softbank pumped in $1.4 billion this year, coming together as they have several synergies and use that to fight Amazon in India.
He also added that even then (if Flipkart and Paytm come together), it will be difficult to topple Amazon.
“Amazon is a strong company with a very long-term strategy. It will not be easy for Flipkart to go against it,” he said adding that the world will be ruled by artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning, and that Amazon is way ahead of the market is using these new technologies to remain the world leader over the next 5-7 years.
Amazon has also committed around $5 billion in the India since 2014 and is likely to pump in more.
Another leading investor Ravi Gururaj was of the view that the recent funding has just made things difficult for the other global players such as Rakuten, Walmart and Alibaba to make a roadway in the Indian e-commerce market.
This will lead to more innovations coming into the market in terms of making better customer experience and also the companies would now work towards getting a better hold in the smaller towns and cities, Gururaj said adding that the consumers can now expect better deals and discounts. “Discounts and deals are likely to get back and it will be a good Diwali for consumers,” he added.
Small invesments On Softbank’s strategy in the India and globally, experts are of the view that the bank with its $100-billion fund wants to invest smaller amounts in several growth-stage companies and want to cross leverage the companies to fight against the largest player, which is Amazon.
“It is impossible for Softbank to now invest in Amazon so they are looking at several smaller companies like Flipkart and Paytm so that atleast a few of them will give them returns like Alibaba did,” added Gupta.