Flipkart, India’s largest online retailer, has been on an onset of a flurry of deals, trying to counter the global tech giant Amazon. Post acquisitions of China’s Tencent, eBay India and Microsoft’s exclusive public cloud platform, Azure, in a Rs 9,000-crore ($1.4-billion) deal, Flipkart has set stage for a merger with Snapdeal, that is yet to be finalised in the coming weeks. A potential Flipkart-Snapdeal merger/acquisition is an attempt to help Flipkart reach the No.1 status among Indian e-tailers.
Having had a history of making prolific acquisitions of rivals such as Myntra, Jabong and now eBay, its eye is on another Indian tech company in order to disrupt the traditional market. The success of this deal will mark the biggest acquisition in Indian e-commerce and reshape India’s online retail landscape. Flipkart, has roped in Goldman Sachs as an advisor to this proposed deal along with Credit Suisse, which has been mandated by Snapdeal, in order to come up with the final terms and conditions for this transaction.
A major reason for this proposed deal between these two Indian e-commerce giants, is to attract SoftBank, the largest stakeholder in the online marketplace, which will possibly invest up to $1.5 billion in Flipkart post this deal. It will definitely prove to be a landmark deal for Flipkart leading to transformation of India’s ecommerce landscape.
As stated by Rutvik Doshi, director at the India arm of Inventus Capital Partners, “A Snapdeal acquisition helps consolidate the ecommerce market and get SoftBank as an investor.” Flipkart has made records by making acquisitions and increasing its competitors in the global markets. To begin with, Tencent versus Alibaba, Microsoft against Amazon Web Services and now eBay versus Amazon.
India’s online sellers have been bleeding due to huge marketing expenses and aggressive discounts. Neither Flipkart nor Snapdeal have ever registered profits, even though they were founded almost a decade ago. At present, these e-commerce retail giants, who are actually the biggest names in the Indian market, face a fund crunch due to huge marketing expenses and aggressive discounts. In almost a decade, they have done a phenomenal job of bringing a conservative Indian customer to shop online. But, in this process of shaping the online presence of Indians in the e-commerce sector, they have barely been able to make profits and hence, questioned by investors.
A merger between these two might be a win-win situation for both the Indian retailers because it can help cool down the marketing frenzy and contribute to a lot of other factors such as:
- Market Share – India has become a hub for online retail and offers massive opportunity. As suggested by reports, its current valuation of Rs 1.44 lakh crore is still nascent and is expected to grow over 40% each year. A report by the Boston Consulting Group and The Indus Entrepreneurs states, that by 2020, with increase in usage of some 550 million Indian cellphone users and high-speed mobile internet, the size of our internet economy (including online retail) will probably double to $250 billion.
- Funding – The funding crunch has been a major problem for these retail giants. But in the previous year, Flipkart has managed to fetch $1.4 billion in a single round. With the onset of this deal, the cash crunch of Snapdeal could be compensated by the finances of Flipkart.
- Popularity – With Jabong and Myntra, being part of Flipkart, it has been more popular than Snapdeal among Indian mobile-only customers. A consolidation of these two, might create an Indian e-commerce giant that could give tough competition to the top selling app, Amazon (The Economic Times, 2017).
The main question that strikes me here is that, What should be the basis of a successful merger : Operational synergies between the two companies or consolidation of investor interests?
It is essential for Flipkart to strike the right deal after its latest round of funding. Post-merger, the strategic investor SoftBank, will become a significant shareholder in India’s largest e-commerce company by making an investment of up to $1.5 billion.
It is expected that SoftBank will not only infuse fresh funds into the company, but also buy shares from Flipkart’s largest shareholder, Tiger Global, the New York-based investor.
In order to help revive Snapdeal and its 3,000 employees, this deal is one of the best options for Snapdeal. With an intention to create a strong market position in India and compete with the international e-tailer Amazon, this deal is likely to be a strong proposition for Flipkart as well. Snapdeal enjoys a strong online presence in the north, hence this deal could add a 100 million users to Flipkart’s customer bank. It will also get access to Snapdeal’s small and big warehouses, especially in Northern India. Snapdeal also has exclusive partnerships with global brands which will be an added advantage for Flipkart in diversifying its fashion portfolio. Hence, this merger is likely to strengthen the supply chain of Flipkart and build its financial muscle in India (Businesstoday.in, 2017).
I believe, a merger between these two is a logical strategy for both the companies to take on the international rival Amazon. I think the focus here should be to consolidate and attract strong investments and maintain a strong presence in the Indian e-commerce sector rather than the short-term goal of making immediate profits.