Analysis

Alibaba quietly edging out the competition in India

Alibaba dominates the industries it is present in, in China. The next market with the biggest potential is their neighbor India. And contrary to popular belief, they already are a big player in India.

Alibaba indirectly or directly holds and controls a lot of assets in India. They are both mobile and non-mobile in nature and in various way, mirror their investments and holdings in China. 

Image - India China.jpg

Here is a short brief on Alibaba’s investments and business’s in India.

Mobile Browser and App Network

UCWeb which was completely bought by Alibaba in June 2014  is a major player in the India market. Their flagship product, UC Browser see’s 54% of India’s mobile traffic pass through their doors and has double the market share than it’s nearest competitor.

9Apps which is another product which has a significant market share in China is the second largest Android app network in India. They have a few other smartphone apps as well.

E-Commerce

On the e-commerce front, Alibaba has made significant investments in the B2C e-commerce segment in India. Their homegrown product, Taobao is a market leader in China. Similar players in India like Snapdeal and Paytm which are major e-commerce portals in India have received significant invesments. It invested $680 million in One97 Communications which operates Paytm and an estimated $100 to $125 million in Snapdeal.

Alibaba has also taken significant steps to gain traction in the B2B market in India, as well. They have recently launched a program, interestingly called SMILE (Small and Medium Industries Leveraging Export). Here they have used the reseller business model for B2B sales in India these players will prove to be key as long as the Indian Government policies evolve to present day standards. The current policies favor local players for now and thus have proved instrumental in local players not being steamrolled by American and Chinese companies.

 

Cab Hailing Services

Kuaidi Dache (快的打车or fast taxi in Chinese) on it’s own controls almost 40% of the cab hailing market in China. They had got seed funding from Alibaba. This was followed by a follow up investments, the biggest one being in a series D funding where Softbank, Alibaba and Tiger Global together invested $600 million. One also has to keep in mind here, that Softbank was an early investor in Alibaba and Jack Ma is on the board at Softbank. Hence the next step was that Kuaidi Dache merged with it’s competitor Didi Dache (滴滴打车) and became Didi Kuaidi . And as a single entity Didi Kuaidi have invested in Ola.

They have invested in local e-commerce players plus a mobile wallet, bought over the most popular mobile browser in India, have a player in the smartphone market and are invested in the local cab hailing service leader.

Alibaba's India Investments

Alibaba achieved all this while the western companies discussed about entering the Indian market. It’s part of their culture, their DNA to be fast and expand with incredible speed. And it’s not an Alibaba thing, its a Chinese thing. One can see the same thing with other Chinese companies who have survived and thrived in the hyper competitive Chinese market and are now moving to India. One thing that we have seen is that Chinese brands and products are giving stiff competition to established western brands in asian markets

Currently India’s e-commerce market is tiny along with much lower per-capita income, limited internet penetration and a small smartphone market, compared to Alibaba’s home market. However India is improving rapidly on these fronts and can prove to be a significant market for any global player.

Alibaba seems to be at the right place, at the right time to take advantage of this massive opportunity.

And western companies need to be prepared for this onslaught of Chinese brands and products in the Indian market as well as in other South East Asian markets and soon, various western markets as quality and sophistication of Chinese products surpass western products.

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