The first quarter of the calendar year has started on a promising note for India’s startups ecosystem with e-commerce focused logistics firm Delhivery and online-grocery store BigBasket joining the coveted unicorn or $1 billion valuation club in the span of a week.
Online grocer BigBasket is set to raise $160 million in a new funding round from foreign investors, making it the latest entrant in the coveted unicorn club. The Bengaluru-headquartered firm’s board has approved a fund raise of $50 million from existing investor Chinese multinational conglomerate Alibaba Group, while CDC Group, a development finance institution owned by the UK government, will invest another $50 million. Seoul-based financial services group Mirae Asset Global Investments will also invest $59.9 million, according to its filing with the Registrar of Companies (ROC).
SuperMarket Grocery Supplies, which runs BigBasket, will issue 100 equity shares at $11.43 per share, and 1 million compulsory convertible preference shares at $114.29 per share, according to the filing.
The investment in BigBasket comes nearly a month after its rival Grofers raised $60 million, in a deal that pegged its valuation at $400 million.
The investment in BigBasket seems to timed well. Grocery is one of the fastest-growing segments in online retail business. RedSeer Consulting, a research and advisory firm focused on the consumer internet market, says that out of India’s over $500 billion grocery market, a mere 0.2% is online, of which $1.2 billion is the overall online market and about $1 billion is only hyper-local grocery.
“Given this massive potential, we expect the online market to continue chugging along at 50% growth rate for the next few years, which will be served by various models, including category specialists and narrow and wide supermarkets,” a March 2019 report by RedSeer noted, adding that the likes of Bigbasket and Grofers have an outsize share of the market, while the omni-channel players and smaller verticals have a long way to go to gain scale. “Meat players have grown rapidly but their share remains small. Horizontals are trying out multiple players (such as Amazon Pantry and Now) but their scale remains small,” the report said.
Experts say grocery is an extremely hyperlocal business, hence there is room for more players to come in considering the geographical presence of the current players.
“In general, grocery is a cash business, especially for online players. Hence, they will always be in a negative working capital stage. But as they will need money for customer acquisition, having capital is crucial, particularly if they have to expand,” says Anil Joshi, founder and managing partner at Unicorn India Ventures, an venture capital investment firm.
According to the RedSeer report, despite operating in a highly competitive market, BigBasket’s first-mover advantage, access to large funds, and a strong pan India presence have helped it compete against e-commerce giants such as Amazon India, which launched its grocery business in 2017.
“Whoever is able to optimise operations will be real winner in this segment. Currently, BigBasket has edge over others. One should not discount Walmart, Amazon and JIO, they will be playing big roles here (online grocery) and e-commerce,” says Joshi.
In the meantime, the latest capital infusion is expected to give more firepower to BigBasket in this battle of supremacy in the online grocery segment, which has seen the entry of deep-pocketed horizontal players Amazon (which has Amazon Pantry and Prime Now) and Flipkart, which will definitely leverage Walmart’s experise in this segment.
Earlier this week, Gurugram-headquartered Delhivery raised $413 million in a round of funding led by SoftBank, the biggest backer of Indian consumer Internet firm, which saw its valuation rising above $2 billion.
Last year too was eventful for the startup community as eight new unicorns joined the billion dollar (valuation) club compared with nine unicorns in a span of six years from 2011 to 2017. The 2018 list includes insurance aggregator PolicyBazaar, e-commerce site Paytm Mall, hotel aggregator OYO, food technology companies Swiggy and Zomato, and educational technology firm Byju’s.
Bengaluru-based BigBasket was started in 2011 and all its co-founders—Hari Menon along with V.S. Sudhakar, Vipul Parekh, Abhinay Choudhari, and V.S. Ramesh—had together launched Fabmart.com, one of India’s first online retail and grocery businesses in 1999. They went on to start a chain of physical grocery stores, Fabmall, across the four southern states, which was sold to Aditya Birla Group in 2006.
Currently, BigBasket, India’s largest online grocery provider, delivers more than 20,000 products from nearly 1,000 brands.