Posted on

India edtech startup Genius Teacher raises USD 2 million

Indian education technology startup Genius Teacher has raised USD 2 million from Whiteboard Capital, and VKG Venture, along with 50 other angel investors including  Abhijit Bose (Whatsapp CEO, India), Kunal Shah (CEO, Cred), Sandeep Tandon (Co-Founder, Freecharge), Dhruv Agarwal (CEO, Proptiger), Justin Sway (CEO, Mmone online), Dan Lapus (Co-Founder, Cvent), Nimish Kampani (President, Let’s Venture), Gaurav Gupta (ex-VP, Snapdeal), Bikram Bedi (ex-MD AWS India) and Farooq Adam (Co-Founder, Fynd). The fresh capital will be used for production development and onboarding new students.

Largely focused on the K-12 segment, Genius Teacher offers students a quiz-based learning platform, with the aim of making education and learning more engaging and interesting. The startup has developed more than 5,000 quizzes and nearly 10,000 interest-based personalized videos.

India’s edtech sector has witnessed a boom in venture capital funds with a spate of edtech-related fundraisings announced this year, attracting the likes of global venture capital investors including Silver Lake, Tiger Global, General Atlantic, Blackrock, and Qatar Investment Authority to name a few. India’s biggest corporation by market capitalization Reliance Industries also jumped into the arena with an investment of nearly INR 6 billion in AI-based edtech startup Embibe in return for a majority stake.

Posted on

India Briefings: Amazon Pay, Paytm, PhonePE, and 26 others become NCPI shareholders

27 Nov 2020

India’s National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) disclosed that is has expanded its shareholder base, through a private placement of 4.63% of its equity shares worth INR 816.4 million, which valued the entity at INR 17.63 billion.  The 19 new shareholders include mobile wallet operators Amazon Pay, Paytm  Payments Bank, PhonePe, Mobikwik, Pine Labs, and PayU. Banking entities include Standard Chartered Bank, Dhanlaxmi Bank Ltd. and IDFC Bank were also onboarded as shareholders. The latest private placement brings NCPI’s total shareholder count to 67. 

According to the shareholder list disclosed by NCPI, Union Bank of India, Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank hold the highest stake with 9.15%, whereas Canara Bank holds 8.14% share. Lenders including State Bank of India, Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, HSBC and Citibank, each, hold a 7.12% stake. 

Bharti Airtel overtakes Jio in August 2020 subscriber growth

17 Nov 2020

According to figures by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Bharti Airtel (NSE:BHARTIARTL) added about 2.9 million users in August 2020, compared to 1.8 million for Reliance Jio – currently India’s biggest telecom operator. This represents a 0.91% monthly growth for Bharti Airtel compared with 0.47% for Reliance Jio.

Except for state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) which added 214,000 users in August, all other mobile operators saw falling subscriber numbers according to the data. VI (previously Vodafone Idea), which was the biggest telecom operator until October 2019, lost 1.2 million users in August. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications lost 290 users, while state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) lost 6,081 wireless subscribers.

SBICap Ventures raises USD 25 million from European Investment Bank (EIB)

13 Nov 2020

The State Bank of India’s venture capital arm SBICap Ventures has raised USD 25 million from Luxembourg-based, publicly owned European Investment Bank (EIB) for its Neev II Fund. SBICap Ventures is aiming to raise USD 118 mill;ion for the fund from global and domestic investors. The fund’s current backers include SBI, Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) and the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID). 

SBICap Ventures is looking to invest in eight low-income and developing states, namely Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Areas of focus include infrastructure sub-sectors such as renewable energy, agricultural supply chain, healthcare, education, urban infrastructure and roads.  

POS company Mswipe’s losses grow 155% 

13 Nov 2020

Indian point of sales company Mswipe, reported losses of INR 1.481 billion for financial year (FY) 2020, a 155% increase from the previous year’s loss of INR 581 million. The company’s expanding losses comes despite a 34.6% rise in operating revenue to INR 3.48 billion from INR 2.585 billion in FY 2019. 

Whatsapp gets NCPI nod to expand payments system

06 Nov 2020

The National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI) has given approval for Whatsapp to ‘Go Live’ on UPI in the multi-bank model. The Indian payments authority’s approval allows Facebook to expand its UPI userbase in a graded manner starting with a maximum registered userbase of 20 million in UPI. 

Facebook first began testing its payment method two years ago. However, expansion efforts have been hampered by a slew of lawsuits over privacy concerns and its inability to meet the Indian government’s data localization requirements. This prevented the social media giant from launching its payment system beyond its beta version which is currently being used by around 1 million users in India. 

Amazon to invest INR 2.76 billion to build second data center region in India

06 Nov 2020

Amazon Web Services, the cloud arm of tech giant Amazon, is investing INR 2.76 billion to build a new AWS Cloud Region in the city of Hyderabad, in the southern state of Telangana, India, by 2022. In a press release, Amazon said, the new Amazon Web Services Asia Region will be Amazon’s second Infrastructure region in India and will enable even more developers, enterprises, and start-ups along with government, education, and non-profit organizations to run their applications and serve customers from data centers situated in India.

Flipkart acquires social gaming startup Mech Mocha

04 Nov 2020

Walmart-backed e-commerce giant Flipkart has acquired multiplayer social-gaming startup Mech Mocha for an undisclosed amount. With the acquisition, Flippkart aims to expand and retain its userbase by offering games to users of its mobile app. 

Hyperlocal search engine Justdial’s net profits drop 43.2% QoQ

01 Nov 2020

Homegrown hyperlocal search engine Justdial has reported net profits of INR 473 million for the quarter ended September 30, a 43.2% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) drop compared to the previous quarter when the company reported net profits of INR 833 million. The company’s profit margins followed a similar trend falling 51.3% QoQ, and 28.26% year-on-year (YoY). 

Revenues fell 30.9% YoY to INR 1.67 billion from INR 2.42 billion the same quarter a year earlier.  

UPI transaction value up 17.3% MoM in October

01 Nov 2020

India’s national payment system – United Payments Interface (UPI) – recorded 2.07 billion transactions (the highest ever since its  founding in 2016) worth INR 3.86 trillion in October according to data released by the National Payments Corporation of India (NCPI). October transactions were up 15% by volume and up 17.3% by value compared to September. 

Reliance Industries FY 2021 Q2 revenue up 27.2% QoQ

01 Nov 2020

India’s biggest company by market capitalization Reliance Industries posted revenues of INR 1.28 trillion in revenues for Q2 of financial year 2020-21, a 27.2% quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) increase, driven by solid performance from its digital venture – Reliance Jio Platforms –  and its retail venture – Reliance Retail. Net profit for the quarter was up 28% QoQ, reaching INR 106 billion. 

Reliance Jio generated revenue of INR 210.7 billion, for the quarter, up 7.1% QoQ. Net profit reached INR 30 billion up 19.8% QoQ.  

Reliance Retail generated revenue of INR 410 billion for the quarter, up 30% QoQ. Net profit surged 125.8% QoQ to INR 9.73 billion. 

Reliance’s fibre-optic business bags USD 1.01 billion investment from Saudi Arabia’s PIF and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA)

30 Oct 20020

India’s most valuable company by market capitalization – Reliance Industries – has announced that Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF) will invest USD 1.01 billion into Reliance’s “critical asset” Digital Fibre Infrastructure Trust, which holds Reliance Industries’ fibre-optic assets.

Amazon Prime subscribers doubled during August Prime Day sales

30  Oct 2020

E-commerce giant Amazon’s video streaming platform Amazon Prime said is subscriber base doubled during August’s Prime Day sales, compared to last year.

Indian army launches Whatsapp-like encrypted messaging app

30  Oct 2020

The Indian army has launched its own messaging app – an indigenous end-to-end encrypted voice, text, and video calling app for Android smartphones. Called the Security Application for the Internet (SAI), the app was launched in an effort to prevent any sensitive information from reaching intelligence agencies. 

Proctor & Gamble sets up INR 4 billion ‘India Growth Fund’

30  Oct 2020

Global FMCG giant Proctor & Gamble has set up an INR 4 billion ‘India Growth Fund’ to identify, and collaborate with startups, businesses, and individuals offering innovative solutions to localize the manufacturing of finished goods, procurement of raw materials, and packaging.  The new fund is part of P&G’s ‘vGrow’ program.  

P&G claims that 95% of its products sold in India are manufactured locally. P&G also exports locally manufactured finished goods to more than 120 countries.  and the program aims to further localize manufacturing of finished products, procurement of raw materials and packaging materials, as well  adopt innovative solutions that enhance the company’s go-to-market technologies to better serve their customers in India. 

Online fresh fish, vegetables, and meat retailer FreshToHome raises USD 121 million, largest ever Series C funding in India

27  Oct 2020

Indian online fresh fish, vegetables, and meat retailer FreshToHome has raised a record-setting USD 121 million in Series C funding from the Investment Corporation of Dubai (the principal investment arm of the government of Dubai), Investcopr, Ascent Capital, the U.S. government’s development finance institution (DFC), and the Allana Group. This is reportedly the largest Series C funding to date for an Indian startup. 

The fresh capital will be used to accelerate expansion through India, as well as the Middle East. Banking on a rising demand for food safety, FreshToHome’s patent-pending AI-powered supply chain technology and its state-of-the-art cold chain enables sellers to source fresh fish, vegetables and meat directly from fishermen and farmers, cutting out layers of middlemen, and helping the company offer customers a safety guarantee of “100% Fresh and 0% Chemicals”.

Reliance-Future Group deal stalled, temporary relief for Amazon

25  Oct 2020

A Singapore-based arbitration panel has ruled that Reliance Retail and Future Group should not proceed with the deal, until it hears the matter. The ruling from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SAIC) is a a win for Amazon who owns an indirect stake in Future Group and claims that Future Group violated the terms of the agreement between the two companies. In August last year, Amazon acquired a 49% stake in Future Coupons which owns a 7.3% stake in Future Retail. Amazon also had the rights to buy into Future Retail after a period between 3 and 10 years as part of the  deal. The contract signed between to the two firms contains a non-compete clause that bars Future Group from selling the business to rivals without Amazon’s approval.

Reliance Retail, the retail arm of India’s biggest company by market capitalization – Reliance Industries – has been moving aggressively  to grab market share in India’s booming e-commerce market, and is expected to emerge as a formidable force in Indian e-commerce, disrupting it similar to the manner in which Reliance Jio disrupted India’s telecom market to emerge as India’s biggest mobile operator by market share. For more insights on Indian e-commerce click here

Supply chain financing startup CredAble raises INR 181.4 million

24  Oct 2020

India supply chain financing startup CredAble has raised INR 181.4 million in funding led by V’Ocean investment. A group of other individual investors participated in the round.

CredAble aims disrupt the supply chain financing in Asia. The startup’s solution combines financing, deep learning, analytics to create innovative financial products dynamically. 

Flipkart acquires stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail

23 Oct 2020

Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart has invested INR 15 billion to acquire a 7.8% stake in Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail. The acquisition looks to be a step towards solidifying Walmart-owned (NYSE:WMT) Flipkart’s position in India’s fashion e-commerce market which is seeing growing competition from Amazon Fashion (NASDAQ:AMZN) and newcomer JioMart which having disrupted the online grocery space, announced its entry into fashion in early October this year.

Flipkart’s fashion business Flipkart Fashion, together with its fashion e-commerce subsidiary Myntra lead India’s fashion e-commerce, with a market share of roughly 38.3% as of 2018 according to S&P data.  

For more insights on Indian e-commerce, click here

India Q3 2020 smartphone shipments reach all time highs

22 Oct 2020

About 50 million smartphones shipped in India during Q3 2020 according to a report by Canalys, hitting a quarterly record in the world’s second largest smartphone market. This is nearly three times the 17.3 million shipped in Q2 2020 (during which time the country was under lockdown for two months). and about 50% higher than the 33.5 million  shipped in Q1 2020. 

Chinese smartphone makers dominate India’s smartphone market accounting for three of the top four brands; Xiaomi lead the way with a 26.1% market share followed by Samsung (20.4%), Vivo (17.6%), and Realme (17.4%). 

RBI bans payment firms from issuing new proprietary QR codes

22 Oct 2020

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has banned payment system operators from issuing new proprietary QR codes and released norms that would move towards making QR codes interoperable. The RBI has said that payment firms that use more than one proprietary QR code must shift to one or more interoperable QR codes by March 31, 2021. According to the RBI there are currently two interoperable QR codes in existence –  the United Payments Interface (UPI), and Bharat QR. The RBI’s new norms will enable the use of one QR code through which all payments can be made, and thereby remove the need for users to maintain different apps.

JioMart forays into electronics

22 Oct 2020

Already the largest online grocer, a feat achieved less than half a year after launch, JioMart, the fledgling e-commerce arm owned by Reliance Retail has reportedly started selling electronics, as it works its way to becoming a full fledged e-tailer. The pilot project on starting October 21, will see electronic products such as kitchen appliances, and home appliances such as vaccum cleaners, and air purifiers, and personal care products such as electronic shavers, trimmers, and consumer electronics such as power banks, and electronic gadgets such as bluetooth headphones, and speakers from brands including Apple, Samsung, Sony, JBL, Philips, Bajaj, and SanDisk being offered to JioMart shoppers in Navi Mumbai.

Reliance Jio Platforms launches JioPages – a ‘Made in India’ web browser

22 Oct 2020

India’s youngest startup unicorn Reliance Jio Platforms has launched JioPages – a web browser based on Chromium Blink – an open-source browser engine developed by Google as part of the Chromium project. The new browser from the digital arm of India’s largest company by market capitalization – Reliance Industries – offers support for features such as encrypted connections, and support for eight Indian languages (Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, and Bengali).

Currently only available in Google Play, the browser has already racked up more than 10 million downloads as of 23 October 2020.

Edtech startup Ahaguru raises Series A funding

22 Oct 2020

Indian edtech startup Ahaguru has raised an undisclosed amount in Series A funding from an investment firm managed by Anand Mahindra’s family office. The funds will be used for teacher recruitment, technology and product development, and increase its student base across in India and the Middle East.

Popular among students for its science and math courses, Ahaguru is making investments in artificial intelligence to offer personalized learning experiences to students to better understand student learning patterns and make suggestions to enhance their knowledge and increase their chances of success.

AI-powered fintech startup Signzy raises USD 5.4 million

21 Oct 2020

Indian AI-powered fintech startup Signzy has raised USD 5.4 million in a funding round led by Arkam Ventures, and Mastercard (NYSE:MA). Existing investors Kalaari Capital and Stellaris Venture Partners participated. The fresh capital will be used for AI-related research and development, and sales, in an effort to capitalize on the heightened demand witnessed during the pandemic.

Signzy offers digital onboarding and identity verification solutions (such as customer onboarding and video KYC) for banks, NBFCs, and other financial institutions.  The startup’s solutions are used by major Indian banks and financial institutions such as ICICI Bank (NSE:ICICIBANK), Aditya Birla Financial Services (NSE:ABCAPITAL) and the State Bank of India.

Atlassian Ventures launches USD 50 million fund for Indian startups

21 Oct 2020

Australian software company Atlassian Corporation has announced the launch of its USD 50 million venture fund Atlassian Ventures which will invest in emerging startups as well as established players in the software space that are developing products within Atlassian ecosystem. The focus of Atlassian Ventures will be on early stage startups that are building apps as part of Atlassian’s cloud products; larger, established product partners looking to scale their business; and existing sales channel partners looking to expand their cloud offerings and create new products.

Indian extra-curricular startup Hobspace raises seed funding

21 Oct 2020

Indian extra curricular startup Hobspace has raised seed funding led by Artha Venture Funds. Other investors that participated in the round include crowdfunding platform AngelList India, venture capital firm Upsparks, and Icebreaker Tech LLP along with angel investors Abhinav Ashokkumar Daga and Siddharth Bhaskar Shah (Ascent Health).

Indian SaaS sales and marketing intelligence startup Slintel raises USD 4.2 million

21 Oct 2020

Indian SaaS sales and marketing intelligence startup Slintel has raised USD 4.2 million in a funding round led by American venture capital firm Accel. Sequoia Capital India and existing investor Stellaris Venture Partners participated. The startup’s intent-powered software processes billions of data points to identify high-intent prospects, thereby helping companies generate leads, and grow revenue. With more than 100 customers across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions, Slintel has reportedly grown 800% over the past year, and is growing its market share in the sales intelligence space. The fresh funds will be used for product enhancement, market expansion.

Restaurant directory startup Zomato ceases Indonesia business

20 Oct 2020

Indian restaurant directory startup Zomato has ceased all operations in Indonesia. Moving forward, users in the country can still access the restaurant directory however maintenance and development will be carried out from Zomato’s headquarters in India.
The move is likely a direct result of the Covid pandemic which negatively impacted the food service sector as consumers were compelled to stay indoors and minimize outdoor activities in an effort curb the spread of the virus. The drop in demand hurt top lines of players in the sector while squeezing bottom lines as expenses such as salaries and other overheads continued to drain cash.

Blackstone To Acquire Prestige Estates’ India Assets

18 Oct 2020

US private equity company Blackstone Inc. (NYSE:BX) has signed an agreement with Indian property developer Prestige Estate (NSE:PRESTIGE) to acquire some of the latter’s real estate assets in India. The deal will include certain commercial offices, retail, and hotel properties, mall management, and identified maintenance businesses.

Blackstone which has the biggest portfolio of office assets in India, has been aggressively investing in Indian real estate over the past decade, much of its attention focused on commercial real estate. Lately however, Blackstone has been making moves in industrial real estate which has been garnering considerable attention from global investors as the country’s e-commerce market booms triggering demand for warehouse space. In January this year Blackstone invested INR 3.8 billion to acquire a majority stake in Indian logistics behemoth Allcargo Logistics. The previous month, Blackstone formed a joint venture with Greenbase, a Hiranandani Group subsidiary to develop warehousing and logistics parks across the country.

JioMart forays into fashion

04 Oct 2020

Having disrupted the online grocery space within a few months of its launch, JioMart, the e-commerce arm of Reliance Retail is now venturing into fashion. The move will intensify competition in India’s burgeoning fashion e-commerce market which is dominated by Flipkart’s Myntra, Flipkart which is owned by US retail giant Walmart (NYSE:WMT), and global e-commerce behemoth Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).  

Reliance Jio, Qualcomm partner to fast track 5G network infrastructure in India

01 Oct 2020

Reliance Jio – the telecom arm of Reliance Industries – has teamed up with US semiconductor company Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) to accelerate the development and deployment of 5G network infrastructure and services in India. Qualcomm and Jio announced that they have achieved over a 1 gigabyte (GB) per second milestone during trials on the Jio 5GNR solution, leveraging Qualcomm’s 5G RAN platforms.

Indian government 118 mobile apps with Chinese links including PUBG, Alipay, and Baidu

04 Sep 2020

The Indian government has blocked 118 mobile apps with Chinese links, including popular mobile game PUBG, Alibaba-owned e-wallet Alipay, and Chinese search engine giant Baidu’s mobile app citing data privacy concerns, and a threat to national security. Other apps include Baidu Express Edition, Tencent Watchlist, FaceU, WeChat reading, Government WeChat, Tencent Weiyun, APUS Launcher Pro, APUS Security, Cut Cut, ShareSave by Xiaomi, CamCard, PUBG Mobile, and PUBG Mobile Lite.

The government ban takes the total count of Chinese-linked mobile apps banned by India to 224. 

 

Posted on

India E-Commerce: Trends And Notable Players

Column chart showing GDP per capita (PPP) growth, 4 selected countries. In 2016 GDP per capita rose 8.26% in Bangladesh, 4.58% in China, 6.86% in India, 0.85% in Pakistan, 5.77% in Sri Lanka, 3% in Malaysia, 2.77 percent in Singapore, 7.71% in Vietnam, and 2.41% in Indonesia. In 2017 GDP per capita rose 8.11% in Bangladesh, 5.69% in China, 5.93% in India, 3.66% in Pakistan, 2.94%, 4.46% in Malaysia, 6.21% in Singapore, 8.86% in Vietnam, and 4.2% in Indonesia. In 2018 GDP per capita rose 9.26% in Bangladesh, 8.77% in China, 7.5% in India, 6.13% in Pakistan, 4.64% in Sri Lanka, 5.63% in Malaysia, 5.38% in Singapore, 8.52% in Vietnam, and 6.44% in Indonesia. In 2019, GDP per capita 8.9% in Bangladesh, 7.57% in China, 5.78% in India, 0.69% in Pakistan, 3.43% in Sri Lanka, 4.75% in Malaysia, 1.32% in Singapore, 7.84% in Vietnam, and 5.69% in Indonesia. Data from The World Bank and LD Investments analysis.

India’s e-commerce market has been booming but the story is just beginning. Out of India’s 1.3 billion population (the world’s second largest after China), an estimated 574 million are active internet users according to consulting company Kantar representing an internet penetration rate of about 44%. That is bigger than the entire population of the United States. This makes India the second largest online market after China which has 904 million internet users as of March 2020 according to CNNIC.

There is still tremendous opportunity for internet users to grow in number. Kantar estimates an 11% growth rate for 2020, with India’s internet users reaching 639 million. As India’s online population grows propelling to country’s digital economy, e-commerce is poised to grow as well. With about 100-110 million online shoppers as of 2019 according to data from a report by Bain & Co, about 17% of India’s internet users shop online.

By comparison, representing 78.6% of China’s internet population, China has 710 million online shoppers as of March 2020,. That is about seven-times that of India’s online shopper population, suggesting an enormous growth opportunity in India. As Indian incomes grow and consumption increases, consumers will seek greater product variety, and quality, at competitive prices. E-commerce can help unlock consumer spending as incomes rise. India’s GDP per capita growth has exceeded 5% since 2016.

Column chart showing GDP per capita (PPP) growth, 4 selected countries. In 2016 GDP per capita rose 8.26% in Bangladesh, 4.58% in China, 6.86% in India, 0.85% in Pakistan, 5.77% in Sri Lanka, 3% in Malaysia, 2.77 percent in Singapore, 7.71% in Vietnam, and 2.41% in Indonesia. In 2017 GDP per capita  rose 8.11% in Bangladesh, 5.69% in China, 5.93% in India, 3.66% in Pakistan, 2.94%, 4.46% in Malaysia,  6.21% in Singapore, 8.86% in Vietnam, and 4.2% in Indonesia. In 2018 GDP per capita rose 9.26% in Bangladesh, 8.77% in China, 7.5% in India, 6.13% in Pakistan, 4.64% in Sri Lanka, 5.63% in Malaysia, 5.38% in Singapore, 8.52% in Vietnam, and 6.44% in Indonesia. In 2019, GDP per capita 8.9% in Bangladesh, 7.57% in China, 5.78% in India, 0.69% in Pakistan, 3.43% in Sri Lanka, 4.75% in Malaysia, 1.32% in Singapore, 7.84% in Vietnam, and 5.69% in Indonesia. Data from The World Bank and LD Investments analysis.

India’s youthful population bodes well for e-commerce growth; as of 2020, 43.82% of India’s population was aged 24 years and below according to data from the CIA World Factbook. As they enter the workforce they will continue to be a major driving force for Indian e-commerce in the long term. India’s e-commerce market is expected to quadruple from US$ 48.5 billion in 2018 to US$ 200 billion by 2026 according to the International Trade Administration representing a CAGR of 19.37%.

Trends and notable players

Social commerce

Riding on India’s vast user base of social media users, social commerce is on the cusp of growth. India had the biggest rise in social media users in 2019, seeing 130 million new users (a 48% YoY) according to Hootsuite. Yet, at just 29% of the total population as at January 2020, India’s social media penetration is lower than the world average of 49% indicating ample room for growth. As more Indians get social, social commerce is poised to flourish.

Bar chart showing social media penetration for selected countries as of January 2020. The worldwide social media penetration at 49%. Social media penetration was 99% in the UAE, 88% in Taiwan, 87% in South Korea, 81% in Malaysia, 79% in Singapore, 78% in Hong Kong, 75% in Thailand, 72% in China, 70% in the United States, 67% in Vietnam, 67% in Philippines, 65% in Japan, 59% in Indonesia, and 29% in India. Data from Hootsuite.

Considered to be the second wave of e-commerce in the country notable Indian social commerce players looking to capitalize on this vast and growing userbase include Meesho, Bikayi, and JioMart. While first wave e-commerce giants such as Walmart-owned (NYSE:WMT) Flipkart, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Snapdeal offer the opportunity to open an online store on their marketplace platforms, Meesho, Bikayi and JioMart leverage on social media platforms to offer businesses and individuals a chance to sell online, somewhat similar to WeChat’s mini-programs which enabled businesses to open stores within the WeChat app. China’s third biggest e-commerce player Pinduoduo for instance was born out of a WeChat’s mini-program.

Whatsapp is the number one messaging app in India with more than 400 million Whatsapp users, making India the country with the world’s biggest Whatsapp user population. Not surprisingly, Whatsapp is a popular social media platform for social e-commerce. Y Combinator-backed Bikayi’s app enables businesses to create a Whatsapp-integrated e-commerce store in a few minutes. The startup reportedly has more than 100,000 businesses using its app. For micro and small SMEs with little capital for a full-fledged e-commerce store, Bikayi’s app is an ideal solution for them to offer their catalogs online. From a consumer point of view, Bikayi is an ideal solution for a mobile-first market like India where 97% of internet users are mobile internet users.

Bikayi’s larger rival Meesho, also enables businesses to open a social media store but its app supports not just Whatsapp, but several other popular social media platforms as well such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Instagram. There are more than 260 million Facebook users in India, making it the leading country in terms of Facebook users.

New social commerce startup Bulbul meanwhile has attracted investor interest with Bulbul raising USD 14.7 million from Sequoia Capital this year. 

The elephant in the room however is JioMart, the online grocery arm owned by petrochemicals behemoth Reliance Industries (NSE:RELIANCE) which has also jumped into social commerce arena; already available to shoppers via app or e-commerce website, JioMart recently piloted a Whatsapp-based grocery ordering platform that allows shoppers to order essentials through Whatsapp. The order is then routed to one of the 1,000+ mom-pop ‘kirana’ stores nearby the customer to fulfill the order.

The social commerce opportunity is driven not just through rising social media penetration but also from a growing number of online shoppers in rural India where internet penetration is less than 30% but growing considerably faster than urban India. According to data from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), urban internet users grew 1.54% during the quarter ended march 2020 while rural internet users grew 6.53% during the same period.

For these new online shoppers, there is a general lack of trust for the millions of unknown online merchants on e-commerce marketplaces such as Flipkart. Social commerce on the other hand enables merchants to interact with first time online shoppers, clear their doubts and essentially provide a ‘face’ to the online store, helping bridge the trust deficit. Meesho for instance generates about three-quarters of its business from outside the top six cities.

Vertical e-commerce

While Amazon, Walmart’s Flipkart, and homegrown newcomer Reliance JioMart focus on the horizontal e-commerce marketplace arena which is crowded with other rivals such as Snapdeal, and ShopClues to name a few, India is increasingly seeing a growing number of vertical e-commerce marketplaces the e-commerce landscape. Flipkart’s fashion marketplace Myntra, Reliance Industries’ fashion marketplace Ajio, beauty e-commerce marketplace Nykaa, and furniture e-commerce marketplaces Pepperfry, and Urban Ladder are some notable established vertical e-commerce marketplaces. As they increasingly gain popularity along with growing e-commerce popularity in India, the number of specialized vertical e-commerce marketplaces is anticipated to continue an upward march in the coming years.

A report by research firm Redseer expects vertical e-commerce marketplaces to grow their share of India’s online retail Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) from 20% in 2019 to 30% by 2022. Marketplaces in industry verticals that have a strong advantage against horizontal e-commerce marketplaces highlighted in the report include pharmaceuticals, furniture, mom and baby care, and beauty and personal care, owing to their differentiated supply chain, and non-standard product which leads to consumer expectations of greater variety, quality and specialized service.

Mom and baby care e-commerce marketplace FirstCry achieved unicorn status this year with a valuation of US$ 1.2 billion, after Softbank committed to investing US$ 400 million in February.

Homegrown startup Livspace, an interior design marketplace connecting homeowners with trusted interior designers, vendors, and customers, currently serves 9 metro areas in India (Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi, Gurugram, Noida, Mumbai, Thane and Pune) and plans to expand locally and overseas (its only overseas market is Singapore currently) having raised US$ 90 million in September this year in Series D equity funding, and Indian Rupees 300 million in debt funding in October. Livspace is expected to generate US$ 500 million within the next 24-30 months.

Indian agriculture marketplace DeHaat meanwhile, raised US$ 12 million from Sequoia Capital this year,  after raising US$ 4 million in Series A funding in March last year, bringing the total amount raised to US$ 16 million to date.

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce

India’s vast retail market features numerous local brands, and with e-commerce gaining popularity in the country, there been a trend of these brands going directly to consumers, essentially eliminating ‘online middlemen’ e-commerce marketplaces.

According to a report by e-commerce-focused SaaS company Unicommerce, there was a 65% increase in brands developing their own websites in June 2020. Meanwhile, an increasing number of online shoppers too appear to be going direct to brand websites, bypassing marketplaces. According to the Unicommerce report, brand websites reportedly saw an 88% increase in order growth compared with 32% for marketplace platforms during India’s lockdown period in June 2020 which led to an increase in self-shipped orders. Given the many advantages of a brand going direct to the consumer, such as greater control over brand perception, and direct interaction with consumers, it is likely that brand e-commerce popularity will continue growing in the years ahead.

The rise of D2C e-commerce in India looks set to follow a path similar to that of China, where rising brand e-commerce has led to the birth of brand e-commerce SaaS (Software as a Solution) companies such as Baozun (NASDAQ:BZUN). India too, has its own homegrown brand e-commerce SaaS solutions companies, notable ones include Zoho and Zepo.

Last year, Indian SaaS major Zoho Corp which has millions of users in more than 180 countries, launched an e-commerce solution enabling small retailers to set up their own e-commerce sites. Unlike other solutions that charge users on a per transaction basis, Zoho will charge a flat monthly fee for stores earning up to US$ 1,000 monthly after which a transaction fee of 1.5% is imposed (for its most basic plan). Zoho is a very established SaaS player offering a plethora of SaaS applications including productivity tools, CRM, and cloud solutions for finance and HR to name a few. This extensive suite of SaaS solutions and an existing customer base gives Zoho ample cross-selling opportunities for its new e-commerce SaaS solution which puts the company in great position to capitalize on India’s rising brand e-commerce market.

Homegrown e-commerce enabler Zepo which raised INR 31.9 million in August 2017 in funding from angel investors Kunal Shah (co-founder FreeCharge), Anupam Mittal and Hetal Sonpal, has its own advantages in the brand e-commerce race. The company offers merchants an integrated platform that enables them to manage their own e-commerce website, as well as manage orders from their online stores on marketplace platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart. For merchants wanting to maintain official marketplace stores while running their own e-commerce website, Zepo could be the player with the ideal solution.

Shopify (NYSE:SHOP), one of the world’s most popular e-commerce SaaS solution providers is another notable player in this space. Having begun operations in India in 2014, Shopify now has thousands of Indian merchants on its platform including Blue Tokai Coffee, apparel company Raymond Group, clothing brand NUSH by Anushka Sharma, John Jacobs Eyewear to name a few. Shopify said the number of merchants in India using their platform grew 44% in 2019 and GMV grew 59%. Shopify supports ten languages in India which is an advantage as more non-English or Hindi speaking Indians increasingly shop online (according to the latest census data from The Office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, Hindi was spoken by 43.63% of the population which means more than 56% of India’s population speak other languages).