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TMCNet:  Amazon looks to fund Indian startup story [India Business] [Times of India]

[July 01, 2014]

Amazon looks to fund Indian startup story [India Business] [Times of India]

(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) MUMBAI/BANGALORE: Even as the e-commerce juggernaut Amazon ramps up operations here, the $74-billion online retailer is quietly identifying Indian startups in the tech and internet space to boost its local ecosystem.


The Seattle-based internet giant is working with its India unit to scout for startups, which could be of strategic interest, people familiar with the matter said. Since 2005, Amazon has been largely investing in startups in the US, having laid its first bet in China by pouring $20 million into a food delivery portal Yummy77 just last month.

Crunchbase data suggests that Jeff Bezos-led Amazon has made 26 such investments globally. However, most of these investments have been kept low-key by the online behemoth. One of its biggest investments recently was made in a daily deals company LivingSocial, where it put as much as $56 million in a $110-million round, according to Amazon's earnings report.

While Amazon looks at these proprietary investments through a strategic eye, it would not necessarily lead to future acquisitions always. Its investments range from music streaming startup Songza to Videolicious which lets users make and edit professional-quality video. While these investments are accounted for in the etailer's balance sheet, the much-storied founder of the company also runs Bezos Expeditions which manages his personal venture capital investments.

Unlike search giant Google, Amazon is yet to set up a venture capital arm focused on investing in startups that fit into the idea of ecosystem building. A detailed email sent to Amazon by TOI on its India investment plans in startups did not elicit a response till the time of going to press.

Indian family offices of large corporates, like Wipro founder Azim Premji's PremjInvest, have made recent investments in e-commerce firms like Myntra and Snapdeal. But Amazon's investments will be keenly watched at a time when it is doubling down on its local rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal to achieve dominance of the online retail market here.

In a letter to the company shareholders in April, Bezos had said, "We've created our own fast, last-mile delivery networks in the UK where commercial carriers couldn't support our peak volumes. In India and China, where delivery infrastructure isn't yet mature, you can see Amazon bike couriers delivering packages throughout the major cities. And there is more invention to come." Amazon launched an online marketplace in India last year where third-party sellers list their products and sell directly to customers. India represents Amazon's tenth marketplace where buyers can browse through a catalogue of over 1.5 crore products, ranging from books, movies, electronics, footwear to apparel.

Amazon's marketplace allows third-party sellers to access its suite of services, including Selling on Amazon and Fulfilment by Amazon. India's e-commerce market is expected to touch $8.8 billion in 2016, according to estimates made by Forrester.

(c) 2014 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited

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