Mega-rounds of funding were back in India this year, after a lull in 2016. But this time they came from the east.
SoftBank honcho Masayoshi Son remains hugely bullish on India despite setbacks in a couple of big bets made on entering the market in late 2014. The Japanese giant announced a US$2.5 billion investment in Flipkart for the local ecommerce player to fight Amazon. Out of that, US$1.5 billion has already been invested. This came on top of US$1.4 billion Flipkart raised from Tencent, Microsoft, and eBay earlier in the year.
India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners.
“India is a land of vast opportunity. We want to support innovative companies that are clear winners in India because they are best positioned to leverage technology and help people lead better lives,” said Son.
SoftBank’s initial bet was on Snapdeal but it had to write down the investment as that ecommerce marketplace rapidly lost market share with the rise of Amazon India in 2016. The Snapdeal founders walked out of a merger with Flipkart after months of negotiation. Its Japanese backer then washed its hands of the deal and invested directly in Flipkart.
SoftBank also made a solo investment of US$1.4 billion in leading payments app Paytm, and doubled down on Uber’s arch rival in India, Ola. The Japanese investor also picked up a large stake in Uber this year, which almost guarantees it will hold sway over ride-hailing in India.
SoftBank’s fourth big bet was to lead a US$250 million round in Oyo Rooms in a bid to win the budget accommodation space, after selling off real estate portal Housing to PropTiger.
The other big players in India this year were Chinese tech giants Tencent and Alibaba. While the maker of WeChat is now a major stakeholder in Flipkart, Alibaba is helping to build out Paytm Mall on the lines of Tmall and Alipay supports Paytm’s payments app.
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