Flipkart raising $1.4 bn from Microsoft, Tencent, eBay shows Indian e-commerce is going strong
The fund raising by Flipkart will buoy the sector which is seeing many players bleeding on account of intense competition and the discounts game played to attract customers
India’s first and largest home–grown e-commerce player has moved to the centrestage with a funding of $1.4 billion from Tencent, eBay and Microsoft.
The transaction values Flipkart at $11.6 billion. This comes at a time when investors, concerned over the profitability and rising competition, are marking down the company's valuation. In February, Morgan Stanley mutual fund had marked down the valuation of the company for the fifth time to around $5.37 billion. Compare this with the $15 billion value the company commanded in 2015.
The latest round of funding has been viewed with much positivity by the trade primarily because many expect this to help the company get wings to soar and take on deep-pocketed Amazon.
The funding only shows that the ecommerce story in India is going strong and that there is market growth in the sector, said Paula Mariwala, partner, Seedfund and co-founder, Stanford Angels. “What did not work was the economics of acquiring customers and customer services. This development shows that the fundamentals of the growth story is intact and ecommerce continues to be a solution for products, consumers and marketers who want to reach out to consumers,” said Mariwala. The funding only goes on to prove that the promise held out by the sector still holds true, she added.
The sector is ripe for correction and funding of this kind will buoy the sagging sector which is seeing many players bleeding on account of intense competition and the discounts game to attract customers. “The sector is right for course correction be it in furniture, food delivery or digital wallets. There are too many players across segments in the e-commerce space and it is time for the stronger players to consolidate their position with mergers and then becoming a stronger contender,” says Arvind Singhal, chairman and managing director of Technopak Advisors, a retail industry consulting firm.
When one player dominates the market and the others are struggling to survive, it does not bode well for the industry per se and also the consumers, says an analyst.
The government has given a fillip to digital payments post-demonetisation which has further helped the ecommerce sector. People are adopting the digital medium faster than ever. The India story has got stronger with a large number of people using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platform developed by the National Payments Corporation of India. All this will only help ecommerce players to penetrate deeper into the market.
Under these circumstances, when a home-grown player like Flipkart gets a helping hand, it is a win-win situation for the company and its investors. “I don’t think Flipkart qualifies to be called a home-grown player any more,” said an analyst, pointing out to the fact that not just Flipkart but most ecommerce players are no longer run by the promoters but the investors who are keen on growth and not in a hurry to exit the market.
By the end of this year, more consolidations in the e-commerce sector is expected. “Consolidation is one solution to growth. It is happening all across the country,” said Anil Talreja ,Partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells. He said, in the ecommerce sector, there is always an issue with regard to startups and sustainability. If you are not in a position to sustain yourself and get a helping hand and subsume into that, it is a way to growth, he said.
According to another analyst, the biggest asset in the space is connect with customers. In this case, Flipkart is a company with this asset already. "The funders are willing to pump in money so as to enlarge the customer base and get loyal ones on board," the analyst said.
However, Singhal points out the development proves the sector has enough space for more than large players. “People have been speculating on the demise of Flipkart or its merger with partners not of its liking. This funding only goes to show that there is space for more players in the market,” said Singhal.
What is curious about the Flipkart deal is its buying out eBay’s India operation while the latter makes an investment in Flipkart. eBay, a first mover in the category, had lost much of its sheen and was not in the race at all for some years now. “It has had a face-saver with its buy-out by Flipkart and also by making an investment in Flipkart,” said Mariwala.
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