Indian e-commerce businesses may not be breaking even just yet but big-ticket transactions by private equity (PE) and venture capital (VC) players drove up investments in these ventures to $2.1 billion in the three months to September. That’s an increase of 17% sequentially, data put together by research firm Jefferies show. Indeed, 2017 has seen a resurgence in inflows into e-retailing as investors believe consolidation and a focus on costs will make ventures more viable. With as much as $7 billion flowing in so far — more than twice the inflows in the comparable period of 2016 — e-commerce has got a fresh lease of life. Of course, Amazon continues to make periodic equity infusions into its Indian outfit, having committed $5 billion to it. The other stand-out investor is SoftBank, which has funded Flipkart, Ola and Paytm. The Japanese investor has so far committed over $4 billion to businesses in India in 2017 alone. The Masayoshi Son-led conglomerate has invested close to $6 billion in the last three years.
In October, taxi-hailing service Ola closed funding of $1.5 billion from SoftBank, Tencent Holdings, RNT Capital and Tekne Capital Management. SoftBank’s investment of about $ 2.5 billion in Flipkart, via its $100-billion Vision Fund, has made it the largest shareholder in the Bengaluru-based e-retailer, displacing Tiger Global, which made a partial exit following the deal. E-grocer BigBasket also raised $ 280 million in September from Alibaba Group, Sands Capital Ventures and Abraaj Group. Excluding the Japanese investor’s commitment, e-commerce and internet firms raised a little over $3 billion between them this year. One reason for this, say industry watchers, is that most businesses are struggling to make ends meet though there is now a lot more focus on the bottom line.
“Founders are looking at margins, the cost of customer acquisitions and the monthly cash burn. But while some good businesses continue to get financial support, the rest must build a strong business so investors are convinced,” said Rahul Chowdhri, partner and co-founder, Stellaris Venture Partners. Largest investors in 2017 included SoftBank, Tencent and Alibaba. Sectors such as e-tailing, travel and fintech were the top favourites among investors. The report pegged the funding for October-December quarter at $ 1.2 billion. According to Jefferies, Flipkart garnered about $850 million in gross merchandise value (GMV) during the five-day festive sale last month while Amazon earned a GMV of about $ 400 million during its four-day sale.