Google could be the dark horse in the Flipkart deal

Amrita Nair-Ghaswalla | | Updated on: Dec 06, 2021

As suitors line up to take a majority stake in Flipkart, Google, too, appears to have thrown its hat in the ring. The search engine major is keen to invest in the Indian online retailer, which has managed to corner nearly 40 per cent of the domestic e-commerce market.

Though the American retail giant Walmart could be the first to breast the tape and ink a deal to buy a majority stake in Flipkart for around $12 billion, other suitors such as Amazon and Google are not giving up.

Both Flipkart founders, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, have “earlier worked for Amazon, and have been in talks with several players for some time for a possible sale or to take a controlling stake. Little wonder that there could be a dark horse in the midst,” said an investment banker tracking the deal.

Moreover, he added, “Indian retailers have delivered higher returns on an absolute basis than global retailers over the last five years. It is a market that is too tempting to ignore.”

The Indian e-commerce market is expected to grow from $38.5 billion as of 2017 to $188 billion by 2025, and is expected to surpass the US to become the second largest e-commerce market in the world by 2034.

Alluding to the ongoing competition between Google and Amazon, sources said these two Internet companies are eager to claw out market share in the India growth story.

“Though consumers tend to search on Google, the purchase decision most likely ends up in Amazon. This is something that the search engine firm is looking to curb. A stake in Flipkart could help it gain considerably in the Indian market,” said sources.

When contacted, a Flipkart official declined to comment. A Google official said the company would not like to comment on speculation.

Commenting on the churn in the online marketplace, N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, said, “If it happens, the Walmart-Flipkart deal is set to be a disrupter in online retail industry in India. Walmart’s partnership and investment in Chinese online store, JD.com is the model that they will probably replicate in India as well. The Walmart-JD.com partnership in China has turned the apple cart for Amazon in the country and this new partnership has the potential to do the same in India.”

The CEO added the partnership of the two giants could well provide “a new model by creating a mixed on-ground online ecosystem difficult to replicate easily. Not only will Flipkart get access to nearly 2,000 of Walmart’s products exclusively, but the global company will also get the well-established e-tailing delivery system that Flipkart has sharpened over the years, giving it logistics support throughout India.”

He added that the country is also likely to see another disruption that will come with the Walmart-Flipkart partnership. “Due to Walmart’s strong base in grocery, this entity is also likely to go very aggressive on selling grocery products online very soon, and apart from giving Amazon a run for their money in this area, online grocery retailers like Bigbasket, Grofers are also likely to face the brunt of it,” said Chandramouli.

Incidentally, Flipkart has undergone two fund-raising exercises in the past. After the first fund-raising from Microsoft and eBay, SoftBank Vision Fund invested $2.5 billion in Flipkart in April last year. With the Indian e-commerce player getting more capital from SoftBank, “expanding and growing the business is mandatory,” sources said.

Sources also highlighted how Google is tackling the competition head-on globally, and could do the same in India. In what is being termed by market experts as a befitting reply to Amazon’s “competitive streak to control the future of online shopping,”

Google has already started getting closer to and congregating big global retail brands such as Target, Home Deport, Costco and Walmart.

Published on April 24, 2018
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