Japanese conglomerate SoftBank is set to shake up the Indian e-commerce industry as speculation increases that it wants to become a consolidator and engage in a more active role at a trio of leading start-ups. SoftBank has already flexed its financial muscles in the Indian e-commerce market, with the firm already investing around $2 billion in a number of e-commerce businesses over the last number of years.
Sources close to the organization have leaked that the solar-to-tech colossus is seeking to secure a piece of India’s industry leaders – that range from payment systems to online shopping and groceries, in a series of that would dramatically shake up a sector valued at $65 billion. Speculation is rife that SoftBank is planning to execute a merger between Snapdeal, which is the third biggest industry player in one of the world’s most competitive online markets – and market leader Flipkart. A potential merger between the two could be brokered and officially announced in the next week.
Media reports have separately linked SoftBank to a tie-up between grocery delivery group Grofers, in which it has invested roughly $70 million, and market leader and rival BigBasket. SoftBank, Snapdeal, Paytm and BigBasket did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Grofers said the company did not comment on merger speculation.
SoftBank has poured roughly $1 billion into Snapdeal since 2014, but competition in e-commerce has risen dramatically with U.S. giant Amazon cranking up its presence and taking the No. 2 spot from Snapdeal. Besides Snapdeal, SoftBank is also close to finalizing a cash infusion of more than $1 billion into Alibaba-backed digital payments firm Paytm - another leader in a highly competitive sector - giving it a more direct say in that group too, according to one source familiar with discussions.