Axis Bank buys FreeCharge for Rs 385 cr: It’s the right price but sharp valuation fall a wake-up call for startups


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Snapdeal is finally selling off FreeCharge, its mobile transactions platform, to private sector Axis Bank. The bank said in a communication to the Bombay Stock Exchange that it has entered into a share purchase agreement with Jasper Infotech Private Ltd, Snapdeal parent, to acquire 100 percent equity in FreeCharge for a consideration of Rs 385 crore.

Snapdeal’s move is likely to expedite its own sale to Flipkart, which has been stuck over valuation issues. Recent media reports said Flipkart has offered $900 million for Snapdeal and the board of the company may have cleared the deal.

Meanwhile, it is to be remembered that Snapdeal bought FreeCharge in a ‘cash and stock’ deal in 2015 for $400 million or about Rs 2,500 crore (at the rupee exchange rate then). It was touted as “one of the largest acquisitions” in the Indian digital commerce space.

With the acquisition, Snapdeal was set to become the largest mobile commerce company in India, offering the widest range of products and services, including financial services and mobile recharge with an exponentially growing user base of over 40 million, the company said, according to a PTI report.

But interestingly, now the deal is happening at just Rs 385 crore. So is Snapdeal selling FreeCharge for a song? Not really, aver analysts for they reason that the price at which FreeCharge was acquired by Snapdeal was ‘unrealistic’. The price paid by Snapdeal for FreeCharge was a ‘lot of money even then’, said Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and Founder, Greyhound Research. “That was an inflated price for FreeCharge then and I expected the valuation to drop,” he said.

When a company is being sold for one-sixth of the price at which it was bought, it means there was some ‘gross miscalculation’ about its valuation, Gogia said. But in 2015, it made a lot of sense for e-commerce platforms to buy mobile transaction players, said a sector analyst. “Remember, then Paytm wasn’t as big as it is today and FreeCharge was doing well. That was a business call that Snapdeal and its investors took based on the available fundamentals then to buy FreeCharge. Even today when they are selling it, it is the best deal in the circumstances Snapdeal is in today,” the analyst said.

On hindsight, decisions may seem as if they needed a correction or that they were fallible. Snapdeal had a high valuation and in February 2016, was valued at $6.5 billion. “At their peak, Snapdeal had a lot of money they could afford to invest,” said Paula Mariwala, Partner, Seedfund and Co-Founder, Stanford Angels. Snapdeal paid the money to acquire FreeCharge as they felt they could expand their reach with digital payments service. “They also bought FreeCharge as they wanted to beat the competition that Flipkart provided and become number one. Obviously that growth strategy did not pan out as expected,” said Mariwala.

Both Gogia and Mariwala feel that Rs 385 crore is the ‘right’ price for FreeCharge now. “This is the real price of FreeCharge,” they say.

What does this acquisition mean for Axis Bank, which incidentally will be the first one in the banking space to snap up a mobile transaction platform, thus increasing its customer base. The FreeCharge deal, when it materialises is being seen as a sweet deal, by sector experts. From having tech at the back-end like most banks claim to, Axis Bank will be the first to have tech at the front-end too.

The payments space will get shaken up and more banks will now be forced to look at similar acquisitions, say some. “I don’t see any such company in the mobile transaction space in the market to be snapped up though,” said an analyst.

Axis Bank has Axis Pay besides the UPI platform. Now they will be able to integrate FreeCharge with UPI, said a sector analyst. “Axis Bank is tech savvy and with the acquisition of FreeCharge it will further the tech image of the bank,” he said. Also, FreeCharge would have tied up with other players for discounts and those relationships can pay dividends for Axis, he said.

Mariwala is curious to see how this deal will pan out for Axis Bank. She wonders if Axis Bank wants to enter the retail payment space with FreeCharge.

The sale price of FreeCharge is a good wake-up call for the startup ecosystem, founders, investors and those planning to buy similar startups, said Gogia. “Me-too products cannot survive and consolidation is the name of the game. Even Paytm had to turn into a bank to be successful,” he said.

The card space is getting obsolete not just in India but also worldwide. With the government encouraging digital payments and with UPI and the BHIM app, the sector is going to do well, say analysts.

“Yet, India is far behind in comparison to even some countries in Africa in the mobile and digital payments space. Banks are constrained by their own structure and regulation and not able to focus on tech innovations. It makes sense to incubate startups in the fintech space or acquire them. I think we will see more of this trend in the future,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a consulting firm.

Rules may be eased to help e-commerce companies boost exports


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NEW DELHI: To enable homegrown e-commerce companies such Myntra, Snapdeal and a host of handicraft and garment platforms to expand their global footprint, India is looking to revamp the export framework governing overseas sales by them. The measures under consideration include a complete switchover to e-enabled filing systems and even doing away with the current cap of Rs 25,000 on a purchase.

“A number of steps have been identified to make it easier for the e-commerce companies sector to trade,” said a senior finance ministry official. A pilot has already been launched in Mumbai and will be expanded to other customs ports. Exports via these online marketplaces rely on couriers and small packages and often involves a lot of paperwork at the ports. Essentially, these couriers act as aggregators for ecommerce platforms.

So, one courier may have to deal with multiple packages but of small value unlike large exporters. The paperwork for each package has to be done separately. They may be allowed to make a single submission for all their packages, which will speed up trade. “The idea is to simplify the process and take it online,” the official said, adding that the cap of Rs 25,000 per package may be substantially enhanced or even removed.

“It would be done shortly.” The restriction is applicable on goods sent through courier companies which have lobbied the governement on these issues. These are currently sent out as samples and products from some sectors such as handloom and garment sectors. They are eligible for export incentives as well under the commerce and industry ministry. The revamp is part of the National Action Plan for Trade Facilitation adopted by the country. The plan was released by finance minister Arun Jaitley on .
Source: IndiaTimes

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India e-commerce companies will never make a profit: K Vaitheeswaran


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In 1999, K Vaitheeswaran, together with five friends in the IT industry, founded India’s first e-commerce company, The venture also built a physical retail chain called Fabmall, which was later acquired by the Aditya Birla Group and was rebranded as More. Vaitheeswaran carried forward the online venture under a new name, But despite being the first mover, Indiaplaza could not deal with the aggression of the newer players, Flipkart and Snapdeal, and shut down in 2013. In his upcoming book `Failing to Succeed’, Vaitheeswaran cautions entrepreneurs about the dark side of starting up.

Were you caught on the wrong foot by trying to build a profitable company at a time when big bucks were coming in?
In the profits vs GMV (gross merchandise value) battle, GMV won. From 1999 to 2013, we raised only $9 million for our e-commerce company. Today, people lose that much in a month. I came after 10 years working for Wipro. I was trained to make profits. We carried that story to every investor and we realised that they were not listening to our story. The pitch deck said Indiaplaza – only profitable e-commerce company. Today, if I take the same story, I would have made a lot of money. It was a timing issue.

What was the feedback you received from VCs?
Hardly anybody gives you good feedback. They just drop you a polite mail. Sometimes they’ll say market is not big enough, even though they put a lot of money to build one. The pitch that could have worked then was the numbers – number of people expected to come online.

Do you think the current Indian e-commerce companies will ever be profitable?
Undoubtedly no one will make a profit. You are hoping to be the last man standing. You can never be the last man standing since there is always a person with more money than you. And 50% of all customers that shop online do it for discounts and delivery. So, it’s a hard game to win. One thing you don’t want to do is fight with a global giant who will do whatever it takes to take your market.


Source : India Times

Paytm Mall Set to Hire 2,000 Employees This Year in Business Expansion


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Online shopping platform Paytm Mall is set to hire nearly 2,000 new personnel across various business and tech roles to effectively scale its operations.

 The shopping platform is under the wing of Paytm Ecommerce, a recently incorporated separate entity by the parent company One97 Communications, to address the potential in online commerce, Paytm said in a statement in Mumbai.
 Further, Paytm has moved over 800 personnel actively involved in the growth of its e-commerce business from One97 Communications to the newly incorporated Paytm Mall.
 Paytm Mall recently raised $200 million from SAIF Partners and Alibaba Group Holdings to grow its business.
 The firm has put together a team with diverse set of experiences and skill sets to handle key roles, it said. The team will continue overseeing various categories across the company.
 “We will make the largest selection of products available to customers on their smartphone, while empowering brands and local shopkeepers to sell online and offline with equal ease,” Paytm Mall’s Chief Operating Officer Amit Sinha said in the statement.
 Paytm Mall is also scaling its partner network by adding another 3,000 Paytm agents to its existing workforce as it goes deeper into tier II and tier III cities, digitising catalogues of neighbourhood shopkeepers and trusted brands, it said.
 It will leverage mobile technology to make its wide retail inventory available to customers while helping retailers reach out to a wider set of customers around them.
 Disclosure: Paytm’s parent company One97 is an investor in Gadgets 360.

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‘e-retailers like Flipkart can’t be written off’, says’s founder K Vaitheeswaran


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Bengaluru: India’s first e-commerce company’s founder K Vaitheeswaran today said e-retailers like Flipkart cannot be written off as they have built good scale, brand and customer base.

“You cannot be writing off companies like Flipkart, for some of them have built good scale; good brand and good customer base. I have no doubt they will figure out a way for solving their problems,” he told PTI here.

Vaitheeswaran, here for the launch of his book “Failing To Succeed – The story of India’s first e-commerce company”, was replying to a query on market pundits being skeptical about survival of domestic e-commerce players – Flipkart and Snapdeal in view of issues like market overspending and dip in valuation.

Vaitheeswaran, also known as the father of the country’s e-commerce, said the fast-growing businesses attract investors and entrepreneurs at initial stages, but in later part of the journey some companies fall by the wayside while some others march ahead.

“It is but difficult to say, which all companies are going to fall by the way side and which will march ahead,” he added.

He had founded in 1999 the, which also set up a brick and mortar retail chain called Fabmall, later acquired by Aditya Birla Group and was rebranded as More.

Vaitheeswaran carried forward the online venture under a new name,, but could not deal with the onslaught of Flipkart and Snapdeal and shut shop in 2013.

He said there will be new e-commerce players, entering the market after a few have fallen by the way side, or could be before that.

He also said e-commerce will continue to grow for next 10 years.

“E-commerce started in the US in 1994, and we started two decades ago, hence the Indian market is still small and has lot of potential for growth. The growth potential for e-commerce is huge,” he said.

Asked what mantra he would give Flipkart and other Indian e-retailers to take on giants like Amazon, Vaitheeswaran said indigenous companies cannot compete Amazon on technology, but can concentrate in areas which can attract customers.

“It is tough to beat Amazon in technology. Some battles you don’t fight,” he added.

Source : FirstPost

Snapdeal board rejects $850 million acquisition offer from Flipkart


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New Delhi: Snapdeal’s board is believed to have rejected a takeover offer of US $800-850 million (around Rs 5,500 crore) from larger e-commerce rival Flipkart.

According to sources privy to the development, Flipkart has completed the due diligence process and has made an offer of US $800-850 million to buy Snapdeal.

However, the offer was rejected by the board which felt the amount undervalues the company as the due diligence report is clean.

“The first offer has been rejected but talks are still on. It is an ongoing discussion,” said one of the sources.

SoftBank, the largest investor, has been proactively mediating the sale for the past few months. The board also has representation from its founders (Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal), NVP and Kalaari Capital.

Sources said Ernst & Young, which was roped in by Flipkart to conduct a due diligence on Snapdeal, submitted its report a few days ago, following which the offer was made.

The deal between Snapdeal and Flipkart, if completed, would mark the biggest acquisition in the Indian e-commerce space.

One of the leading contenders in the Indian e-commerce space, Snapdeal has seen its fortunes failing amid strong competition from Amazon and Flipkart.

Compared to a valuation of about US $6.5 billion in February 2016, the sale to Flipkart could see Snapdeal being valued at about US $1 billion.

SoftBank has already written off over US $1 billion on valuation of its investment.

e-commerce: Flipkart maintains its edge over Amazon with 57% market share in March 2017, claims Naspers


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Flipkart, India’s largest e-commerce company, has witnessed a marked improvement in its market share in the nine month period to March 2017. Naspers, one of the key investor in Flipkart, said the Bengaluru-headquartered company maintained its leadership position, with recent market share trends suggesting gains.

Announcing its consolidated financial results for the year ended March 2017, Naspers said Flipkart’s market share improved to around 57 percent in March 2017 from 45 percent in June 2016.

The company attained higher market share after it raised $1.4 billion at a valuation of $11.6 billion earlier this year, while sales numbers of fashion arms Myntra and Jabong  e-commerce since September 2016 also contributed to the improved performance.

Flipkart, remains a large opportunity, with market estimates expecting the online retail market in India to reach $50 billion by 2020. Competition has intensified in the past year, with Amazon gaining market share in the early part of the year, Naspers said in a financial statement.

In fact, Naspers invested $71 million for an additional stake in Flipkart in April 2017. The additional interest was acquired from existing shareholders of Flipkart. Following the investment, the group holds a 16 percent interest in Flipkart e-commerce on a fully diluted basis, Naspers said.

Going back, Naspers made its firs investment in Flipkart in 2012 when it acquired a 10 percent stake in the company by infusing $102 million. Naspers maintained its investment pace in Flipkart, and subsequently invested $140 million in July 2013 and $293.3 million in 2014. However, the South Africa-based multinational internet and media group firm with a market capitalisation of $66 billion did not participate during Flipkart’s fund-raising exercise in 2015.

Although Indian online retail market is still in a nascent stage, both Flipkart and Amazon are looking to outdo each other because of their strong financial position. Flipkart is also currently engaged in talks to acquire Snapdeal’s business in a move aimed at further strengthening its position and retain its edge over the number two player Amazon.

Source : Firstpost

Naspers report – Flipkart is e-commerce market leader in India


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Bengaluru: South Africa’s Naspers Ltd, the second-biggest investor in Flipkart, has indicated that the Indian e-commerce poster boy is the market leader in the country’s $15-billion online retail market—a claim that arch-rival Amazon India has disputed.

According to Naspers’ latest annual report, Flipkart’s share of monthly gross merchandise value (GMV) stood at roughly 57% in March, up from 45% in June last year. Naspers’ numbers are based on Flipkart’s estimates.

Amazon disputed Flipkart’s claims of market leadership.

“Based on standardized monthly reports, we know for sure that we are leaders on things that matter to customers and sellers. As there are no credible third-party sources for segment share, we do not comment on speculations. In the last four years since starting our India operations, we have transformed the ecommerce landscape in India through our global and local customer and seller focused innovations to make ecommerce a part of customers’ daily lives and beyond metro phenomenon. With an industry-leading selection of over 100 million products offered by over 2 lakh sellers, loyalty programs like Prime, order delivery to 97% serviceable pin codes in India till date, 75% of new customers coming from non-metro geographies and a significantly faster than industry growth rate of over 85% YoY in Q1 2017, Amazon is shaping the future of ecommerce in India,” an Amazon India spokeswoman said in an email.

Flipkart, which in April raised $1.4 billion in fresh funds from Tencent, Microsoft and eBay, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

While the market share figures cited in the Naspers report are disputed by Amazon, experts agree on one thing: Flipkart has shown clear signs of a turnaround in sales since last June when alarmed investors brought back Tiger Global Management executive Kalyan Krishnamurthy to lead a recovery amid an all-out assault from Amazon India.

Prior to Krishnamurthy’s return, sales had stagnated at Flipkart and during the months of July and August, Amazon India had, in fact, overtaken Flipkart’s monthly sales on a standalone basis.

Flipkart’s recent resurgence has its roots during last year’s Big Billion Day (BBD) sale in October when it trumped Amazon India, belying predictions of many investors and analysts who thought Amazon may run away with India’s $14-15 billion e-commerce market.

Mint first reported on 16 February that Flipkart had pulled in gross sales of more than Rs2,600 crore in both December and January on the back of bumper sales of smartphones, coming in ahead of arch-rival Amazon India in both months.

Flipkart’s numbers during the March quarter and the current quarter are early but clear signs of a sustained turnaround under Krishnamurthy’s stewardship.

While Flipkart has shown signs of consistency over the last nine months, Amazon India has not conceded any ground.

On 7 April, Mint had reported that Amazon India had posted an 85% increase in gross sales volumes in the three months to March from the year-ago period, growing much faster than the overall market and maintaining pressure on Flipkart.

Amazon’s numbers have indicated that its strategy of offering the widest product selection and aggressively advertising its platform is working well. Its subscription programme Prime, which was launched last July, is helping the company retain many existing customers and getting them to spend more. Mint reported first in April that Prime accounts for nearly 30% of all orders on Amazon India.

On Monday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos indicated that the company would continue to invest heavily in India, after a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the US.

“Terrific meeting with @narendramodi. Always impressed, energized by optimism and invention in India. Excited to keep investing and growing,” Bezos tweeted.

Reference : Livemint

Azim Premji’s investment arm objects to special payouts to Snapdeal founders, 2 shareholders


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More trouble seems to be coming in the way of e-commerce company Snapdeal, which is in advanced negotiations to sell its business to Flipkart.

Wipro promoter Azim Premji, whose investment arm PremjiInvest is one of the minority shareholders in Snapdeal, has sought a clarification on how the company plans to protect the interest of minority shareholders in the event of a sale to Flipkart. Snapdeal counts other minority investors such as Ratan Tata, Foxconn, Alibaba Group, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, eBay and Hong Kong-based hedge funds, among others, who together own about 40 percent of the company, but do not have board representation, the ET report said.

Wipro’s family office has objected to special payouts to two of its co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal and two early investors, Kalaari Capital and Nexus Venture Partners, which would be receiving a total $90 million for their stake sale to Flipkart.

Going by the agreed terms, early investors Kalaari Capital and Nexus Venture Partners would receive a total of $60 million besides new equity in Flipkart, while founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal would get a combined $30 million, Financial Expressreport said.

“PremjiInvest sent a letter Wednesday to the Snapdeal board saying that the $90 million to be handed to this select group of early Snapdeal shareholders and founders isn’t acceptable,” the FE report said quoting unnamed people.

Besides $90 payout to shareholders and founders, another $30 million has been proposed by the Snapdeal board to be paid to its employees. Premji’s family office, however, has not objected to this payment to employees.

However, The Economic Times report says special payments to be made to shareholders is expected to be around $150 million.

The fresh query raised by Premji’s personal investment arm is the second since Snapdeal decided to sell its business to Flipkart.

PremjiInvest is also trying to garner support from other minority investors in order to oppose the special payouts to select shareholders.

As Wipro’s family office raises fresh query over payout, Snapdeal’s business sale plans could hit roadblock. In fact, Premji’s objection could further pull down Snapdeal’s valuation, as the non-binding preliminary agreement has called for the e-commerce major’s valuation to be reduced to about $1 billion from $6.5 billion, FE report added.

Paytm introduces zero cancellation-handling fees for flight tickets


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Paytm : This fee is typically charged on a per passenger basis and is applicable even if cancellation is requested several weeks ahead of the travel date.

NEW DELHI: Paytm has waived off cancellation -handling fee for flight tickets booked on its platform. Customers cancelling flight tickets booked on Paytm will only be charged a cancellation fee from their respective airline and no additional handling or processing fee.

Most online travel sites in India charge a cancellation- handling fee when a customer requests ticket cancellation. This fee is typically charged on a per passenger basis and is applicable even if cancellation is requested several weeks ahead of the travel date.

Abhishek Rajan, Vice President – Paytm said, “This is a first-of-its-kind initiative among the leading online travel sites in India. We believe in having policies that enable us to protect the best interests of our customers and zero cancellation-handling fee is just another step in this direction.”

Paytm is the first horizontal major to enter into Travel business, a domain that has hitherto been dominated by vertical players. Paytm said in recent months it has witnessed exponential growth in travel with more than 10 million tickets sold in FY 2017. The company recently announced that it has become the country’s largest player (after IRCTC) for selling online rail tickets.

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Amazon investing $5 billion in infrastructure in India


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The move from Amazon is to overtake local rival Flipkart

It will continue to invest in India in expanding infrastructure and bringing in solutions that enhance consumer and seller experience as the US-based e-commerce major looks to overtake local rival, Flipkart.

Amazon, which has completed four years of operations in India, has committed investments to the tune of USD 5 billion in the country.

“Last year, half the capital deployed was in infrastructure. This year too, we will continue to invest in infrastructure, innovation and technology,” Amazon Senior Vice President and Country Manager (India) Amit Agarwal told PTI.

He, however, declined to share financial details.

“Our new customer acquisition has also grown by 60 per cent year-on-year in 2016, driven by growth from tier II and III cities,” he said.

Amazon has been aggressively investing in setting up fulfilment centres across the country to ensure speedy delivery to consumers. It has 41 such warehouses across 13 states.

Its seller base has also increased from 100 in 2013 to 2 lakh currently.

With Tiger Global-backed Flipkart’s fund raise of USD 1.4 billion earlier this year, the competition is set to intensify further in the coming days. Both companies are expected to pump in money to strengthen operations and woo customers with offers.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has already highlighted the importance of the Indian market to It’s operations.

About Snapdeal

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SnapDeal coupon offer is an online marketplace, New Delhi, India. The company was started by Kunal Bahl, a Wharton graduate as part of the dual degree M&T Engineering and Business program at Penn, and Rohit Bansal, an alumnus of IIT Delhi in February 2010.

History was started in February 2010 as a daily deals platform inspired by but expanded in September 2011 to become an online marketplace. Snapdeal has grown to become one of the largest online marketplace in India offering an assortment of 4 million+ products across diverse categories from over 50,000 sellers, shipping to 4,000 towns and cities in India. In March 2015, Snapdeal brought Amir Khan for the promotion of its website in India.

Awards and recognition

  • eRetailer of the Year & Best Advertising campaign of the year – Indian eRetail awards 2012 organized by Franchise India in Feb,2012.
  • Winner of Red Herring Asia Awards 2011.
  • E-commerce site of the year at WAT awards that took place in Jan 2012, Mumbai.
  • Voted amongst the Buziest brands of India in afaqs’s annual buzz-making poll.

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