Snapdeal buys $400-mn FreeCharge voucher; Kunal Bahl calls it ‘game-changing partnership’

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Bangalore | Updated: April 9, 2015 1:05:55 PM

FreeCharge investors won’t exit following the deal

Snapdeal buys Freecharge, Kunal bahl freecharge, mobile transactions, mobile transactions push, Freecharge, snapdeal Freecharge, snapdeal freecharge offer, BusinessSnapdeal raised 7 million from Japan?s SoftBank in October last year. (Reuters)

Leading online marketplace Snapdeal has acquired mobile recharge startup FreeCharge in a cash-and-stock deal, touted as the biggest deal in India’s consumer internet space. Though Snapdeal didn’t divulge the deal size, industry sources pegged it at $400 million.

Snapdeal’s latest acquisition gives it a powerful push into the mobile commerce space. Together, the two companies do more than a million transactions every month and claim to have captured the majority of market share.

“We are building an ecosystem that powers billions of digital commerce transactions in the country. With this game-changing partnership with FreeCharge, we have significantly enhanced our user base and now offer all our customers access to the widest selection of products and services online, making digital commerce an even more intrinsic part of their lives,” said Kunal Bahl, cofounder, Snapdeal.

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Founded in 2010, FreeCharge is strong in the mobile space with 20 million registered users has raised $113 million so far from investors like San Francisco-based Valiant Capital Management and Hong Kong-based Tybourne Capital Management. Its investors have decided not to exit following the transaction. Though the companies will work separately, there will be a ‘cross-pollination’ of services to help FreeCharge customers buy products from Snapdeal, and vice versa.

“Recharging your phone is a need-based activity and sort of a gateway to online shopping. With this partnership, we will be able to move people from need-based transactions to want-based online transactions,” said Kunal Shah, co-founder, FreeCharge. It will take three to six months for the integration to complete.

Shah said the integration will include cross-transactions on both platforms, where users can buy products from Snapdeal using their card information saved on FreeCharge. The company processes 60-70 million recharges every month with an average transaction value in the range of Rs 100-150. The company, says Bahl, will add many new ‘digital goods’ on its platform soon.

“E-commerce companies are concentrating their efforts on increasing the penetration of their mobile apps for higher growth. The rapid spread of mobile internet, especially on smartphones, could unlock a significant market beyond tier I cities for the online retail segment,” said Hemant Joshi, Partner, Deloitte Haskins & Sells. However, more than 70% of FreeCharge traffic comes from tier i cities.

Including this acquisition, Snapdeal has bought four companies this year and plans more such acquisitions. It had acquired fashion discovery site Exclusively in February, picked up 20% in logistics firm Gojavas besides buying out smartprix.com

“We are going to get more aggressive this year with our acquisitions and we have set our eye on that,” Bahl said. With Softbank’s $627-million investment in Snapdeal last year, the company has raised a total of $1.1 billion in eight rounds. Flipkart, on the other hand, has raised $2.5 billion in 11 rounds of funding. In December last year, it raised $700 million from DST Global and other existing investors.

Rivals Snapdeal and Flipkart are keen on acquiring startups in the mobile sector. Flipkart had acquired mobile ad network AdiQuity for an undisclosed sum to leverage its platform in opening up new revenue streams. Of late, e-commerce companies have been focusing on their mobile platform, so much so that Flipkart and Myntra have adopted an app-only strategy to boost mobile traffic. Snapdeal claims to have about 70% traffic from mobile while for Flipkart the number stands at over 60%. Both Flipkart and Myntra are even contemplating shutting down their desktop websites.

“These e-tailers have realised now that growing a company organically is complex and time-taking. So we will see a lot more such acquisitions, especially in the mobile space,” said Arvind Singhal, chairman, Technopak Advisors.

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