India’s Retail Battle Attracts Fresh Energy

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One of the biggest retail stories as we head into 2020 is how India is a battlefield of digital commerce, along with a hotbed of retail innovation. The latest example of that come from Udaan, a marketplace that provides loans and sells products to small merchants, and which reportedly “is in talks to raise a new round of funding of around $500 million.”

According to that report, Udaan has some 2 million buyers in 900 cities and towns across India, along with up to 35,000 wholesale buyers. The company was founded in 2016.

This new push for funding marks only the latest development in India’s retail game, which has led to growth for homegrown players and also attracted some of the biggest digital operators in the world.

Amazon’s Moves

Take Amazon, for instance.

With a move that could make an increasingly crowded market more competitive, Amazon is reportedly planning to roll out a food delivery service in India. The eCommerce retailer is said to be working with Catamaran and has started hiring workers for the operation per unnamed sources, Reuters reported.

Amazon’s move into delivery from takeaway food outlets as well as restaurants could help the company bring in shoppers for other offerings per one unnamed source in the report. As it stands, the company rolled out Prime services in the country in 2016. It already has music as well as video streaming in addition to grocery delivery in many of the country’s cities.

In separate news, Amazon was gearing up to roll out kiosks in India that will enable consumers to purchase its hardware including its Echo, Kindle eBook reader and the Fire TV stick per reports earlier this year. According to a report that cited two people familiar with the company’s plans, Amazon would install 100 kiosks in malls across India by the conclusion of 2019. The kiosks could be the early stage of Amazon creating more of a physical retail presence in India.

An Amazon spokesperson told the ET in an emailed response per news in March, “The Amazon Devices Kiosk gives customers a first-hand experience of the devices. Customers can walk up to the kiosk and take an assisted live demo of Kindle, Fire TV and Echo family of devices with the help of the store staff before purchasing devices. The store staff is also available to solve customer queries, pre and post purchase.”

Facebook’s New Plans

For its part, Facebook recently said it is going to buy a stake in Meesho, an Indian eCommerce startup that connects people reselling a variety of items with potential buyers on other platforms.

Meesho is a digital platform for resellers of items as diverse as jewelry to smartphones to reach prospective customers via social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. It has some 2 million entrepreneurs focused on India’s smaller towns and cities, the vice-president and managing director at Facebook India told the news service.

No details were available about how much Facebook is paying for the stake in Meesho, or the size of that stake. Meesho reportedly was founded in 2015 has raised some $65 million in capital so far.

India has been looking to increase regulation of social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, and that could lead to increased monitoring requirements for such companies. Even so, the commerce battle in India is getting more competitive and attracting more money, as these recent developments show.


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