Naspers Takes a R1.9 Billion Bet on India’s Social Commerce Startup

The new funds will enable strides towards this goal by allowing the company to make deeper inroads in areas outside India’s major metro regions, by creating more entrepreneurs, and as a result, reaching remote customers not serviced by traditional e-commerce marketplaces.

Naspers
Naspers. Image source: livemint

Meesho, a Bangalore-based social commerce startup, announced today the closing of a $125 million (R1.9 billion) fundraise led by Naspers, with participation from Facebook and existing investors SAIF, Sequoia, Shunwei Capital, RPS and Venture Highway.

Former Vodafone Group CEO Sir Arun Sarin also participated in the round.

Meesho is social commerce online marketplace in India that enables independent resellers to build small businesses by connecting them with suppliers to curate a catalog of goods and services to sell.

The company also provides logistics and payment tools on the platform. These ‘social sellers’ then sell within their social networks on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram.

Meesho has built a network of more than 2 million ‘social sellers’ across 700 towns in India, as well as creating a disruptive distribution channel for 15,000 suppliers in traditional manufacturing hubs.

With a current focus largely on apparel, home, wellness and electronics items, the company has a mission to create 20 million entrepreneurs by 2020.

The new funds will enable strides towards this goal by allowing the company to make deeper inroads in areas outside India’s major metro regions, by creating more entrepreneurs, and as a result, reaching remote customers not serviced by traditional e-commerce marketplaces.

The latest investment will also strengthen Meesho’s aim to grow its community of women entrepreneurs who have dreamt of running their own businesses but lacked the funds and expertise to do so.

Founded by IIT-Delhi graduates Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal in December 2015, Meesho is India’s largest social commerce platform that enables individuals to start an online business with zero investment.

“I am particularly proud that Meesho has cut across gender, education levels, risk appetites and vocations to create livelihoods for people with no investment of their own. Our social sellers are small retailers, women, students and retired citizens, with 70% being homemakers who have found financial freedom and a business identity without having to step outside their homes,” said Aatrey.

Meesho also plans to use the new funds to further build its technology platform to accommodate new product lines, and to evolve its analytics and machine learning platforms to handle national scale.

At the same time, in addition to expanding its network coverage to new geographies, the company will further deepen its operations in existing geographies.

“The exciting growth of e-commerce in India has hidden the fact that over 90% of Indians either can’t or won’t use it in its current form. They want online shopping that enables them to buy from small businesses they trust. Meesho provides a way for these customers to get what they need – and we believe it is the future of online shopping for the next 500 million consumers,” said Aatrey.

“We are delighted to welcome Naspers as our new investment partner. The company has a great track record in the Indian market, helping to support and build some of the leading Indian e-commerce businesses. We are excited to tap into their operational expertise scaling companies as we enter into our next stage of growth.”

“Globally, Naspers identifies big areas of consumer spend that have not yet been significantly disrupted by technology and India e-commerce certainly fits the bill. We were attracted to Meesho because the team have built a uniquely Indian solution that utilizes the reach and scale the internet enables, and harnesses and makes it available for small sellers to better serve customers no matter where they live, for the benefit of all,” said Ashutosh Sharma, Head of India Investments, Naspers Ventures.

“The phenomenal growth they are already experiencing shows that Meesho has hit a sweet spot in the market and is well-poised to serve the next 500 million online shoppers in the country.”

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