A whopping $5.2 billion: that’s how much Chinese internet companies such as Alibaba, Fosun, Baidu and Tencent invested in 30 Indian start-up companies last year. That number is nearly a five-fold jump from the $930 million that companies from China pumped into 41 Indian firms in 2016.
And it doesn’t end there. Investments in the first two months of 2018 have nearly touched $1 billion, indicating that Chinese firms mean serious business in India.
Players such as Flipkart, Paytm, Ola, Hike, Ibibo, Gaana and Zomato are among the major recipients of the Chinese funding.
The data, obtained from start-up research platform Tracxn, indicates that the investments were mostly late-stage funding or private equity, which means the Chinese are backing companies that are either well established, profitable or are on their way to going public.
These investments show that the ongoing political and economic tension between India and China has had no major impact on business. But experts warn that India should watch the fund inflow from a hostile neighbour.
According to Ajeet Khurana, a serial investor and a blockchain expert: “On the one hand, increased Chinese investment into India is a clear indicator of the Indian opportunity; on the other hand, India needs to ensure that we aren’t surrendering our strategic interests in the region.”
One major concern is data security. “Today, internal security issues are not restricted to military installations and high-value targets. Information security and network security issues are vital concerns. Any international participation in India should not have access to critical information that is crucial to national security,” Khurana added.
Sanjay Mehta, an angel investor, said Indian investors and large domestic corporates should step up support to local start-ups. “It seems Chinese investors are more bullish on India than Indian investors. This needs to change,” he said.
The concerns around security come after the Alibaba-owned UCWeb browser was suspected of stealing data from Indian users late last year. Following this, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had also stepped up its scrutiny of China-based smartphone makers, including such as Xiaomi, Oppo, Gionee and Lenovo. However, even the so-called ‘Made in India’ mobile phones are only assembled in India, with parts imported from China.