E-commerce rides recovery wave, Sebi's SPAC plan & more


Good morning,

Hi, Digbijay here. After weeks of lockdown, Bengaluru relaxed rules from Monday, joining Mumbai and New Delhi in unlocking and getting back to business. E-commerce firms are hoping to do the same and stage a gradual recovery. They are lining up sales and offering incentives to sellers on the road to recovery.

Also in this letter:

  • Sebi plans framework on SPACs
  • Google revamps Workspace
  • Social audio’s YouTube moment

Online retailers test consumer appetite

ECOMMERCE SALES

As we try to leave the devastating second wave of the pandemic behind us, e-commerce firms are exploring ways to stage a recovery—even if it happens at a slower pace. There is no denying the second wave of the pandemic has done serious damages. It’s also true that online shopping has benefited from the virus outbreak as it pushed offline shoppers to move online while existing customers started buying more. But this year, it’s different, as we have been reporting.

E-commerce platforms like Flipkart and Amazon India are seeing early signs of a comeback in consumer confidence. Now, they are checking if customers are ready to take the next step. Even as you read this, a sale is underway on Flipkart while Amazon is planning its first major sale event next month, sources told us. Flipkart’s ongoing sale is the first such across categories since the second wave hit India and it would hold true for Amazon’s plans too. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant had to postpone its Prime Day sale here, even though it’s going ahead with the same across the rest of the world, later in the month.

Why it matters: How consumers react to these sales would be an important indicator of revival in consumer demand in India, especially for non-grocery products. Essentials have been in demand online throughout the second wave but the top-grossing e-commerce categories are smartphones, electronics, appliances and fashion. Based on early trends from the last 10 days, they are being hopeful of consumers no more leaving goods in their carts and completing the purchase, and then adding some more to the cart.

Focus on sellers too: We spoke to multiple sellers of all sizes. All of them echoed that April was largely a washout for them since most of them deal with products seen as “non-essentials”.

Current sales trends are encouraging but they need more.

Flipkart is offering free shipping to sellers for non-grocery orders from new customers. It’s not a lot but it might nudge sellers to proactively refresh their listings and get them to restart selling actively. “There was not much communication from marketplaces in the last two months but that’s changing now. There are early discussions being held around a sale event for Independence Day,” a New Delhi-based seller told us.

The Independence Day sale is a routine every year but if we have learnt anything from 2021, there is hardly anything routine about it. We will see how it goes, if it happens.

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Where does it all lead to? Essentially, all the plans and bets will give a good signal on how the much-hyped annual Diwali sales will fare this year. It’s perhaps one of the most important events for ecommerce companies when they try to log a significant chunk of their annual sales as people plan holidays and festivities that lead to more purchases. Nobody is sure of holidays this year yet but there is a glimmer of hope on consumer spending coming back.

Why is it a big deal? It is a big deal when e-commerce firms clock around $4 billion in gross sales in less than a week. Yes, that’s the number from last year’s flagship Diwali sales in the first round, which is largely attributed to Flipkart’s Big Billion Days or Amazon’s Great Indian Festival. E-commerce festive sales had crossed the $8 billion mark during the one month sale period in 2020, surpassing RedSeer’s estimate.

Reality check: These numbers are from 2020 and 2021 is very different from 2020. But this explains why e-commerce firms are testing out the consumer appetite for online shopping with incentives, offers and experiments. They are hoping the second half of the year will be better than the first half of 2021 and Diwali can light up the mood. We will keep you posted on how that goes.

Also Read: Amazon India vendor Cloudtail faces Rs 56 crore tax demand


Sebi plans framework on SPACs

India’s markets regulator is looking to create a dedicated framework on Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, or SPACs, to allow such ‘non-operational’ entities to raise funds in initial share sales and list locally.

Why it matters: Currently, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) allows listing of only “operating” companies. To allow SPACs in India, it has to either introduce a separate law or amend current regulations to allow listing of “non-operating” or “investment” companies, industry officials aware of the development told ET.

What are SPACs? SPACs, sometimes called “blank-cheque” companies, are shell firms created with the sole intention of merging with a private business. These firms list on the stock exchanges without any real business and raise money from investors.

They then typically buy private firms and help them go public quickly without the hassle of a traditional IPO. A SPAC has two years to find a company to acquire or it must return the funds to investors. For more, read our explainer on SPACs here.

Tweet of the day


Nikhil Kamath admits to foul play against Anand

Nikhil Kamath

Zerodha co-founder Nikhil Kamath has apologised for causing “confusion” by using unfair means to win a game of chess against five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand.

  • The apology came after Chess.com banned Kamath’s profile for violating its fair use policy.
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What happened?
A charity chess match was held between Indian chess grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand and top personalities like Aamir Khan, Riteish Deshmukh, Manu Kumar Jain and Yuzvendra Chahal with an aim to raise funds for Covid-19 relief efforts. Anand won all the matches held simultaneously with an exception of Kamath, who at the time termed that “he just got lucky”.

As his profile ban got more traction on Twitter and Reddit, Kamath admitted that he had help from “people analyzing the game, computers, and the graciousness of Anand sir himself to treat the game as a learning experience”.

Kamath is one of the youngest billionaires in India. Recently, Zerodha had passed a special resolution to pay annual salaries of Rs 100 crore each to founders Nithin and Nikhil Kamath, as well as to whole-time director Seema Patil.


Google revamps Workspace

Google is expanding its Workforce suite of office products to everyone with a Google account, as it looks to counter Microsoft in a hybrid-work world.

The story, in one quote: “The world is moving towards a hybrid workspace. People in some parts of the world, like in the US, are returning to offices, while others — like in India — continue to work remotely,” Javier Soltero, vice president and general manager of Google Workspace, told ET in an interview. “But the same technology tools should be made available to everyone to make sure no one is disadvantaged.”

  • Google has also announced a new individual subscription offer, enhancements to Google Meet, as well as security and privacy capabilities to support hybrid work.


Why is it significant?
Google has nearly 3 billion users across consumer, enterprise, and education. They will now have access to the full Google Workspace stack—including Gmail, Chat, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Meet.


Infographic Insight

Abu Dhabi’s sovereign fund ADQ is in talks to invest about $500 million in Flipkart as the Walmart-backed e-commerce firm raises funds ahead of a potential initial public offering (IPO) next year, Bloomberg reported.

Flipkart


Social audio awaits its YouTube moment, Clubhouse founders say

Paul

Clubhouse, an invite-only audio chat app launched on Android in India on May 21, has crossed the one million downloads mark. On Monday, ET Now’s Nayantara Rai spoke with Clubhouse founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth in their first TV interview together.

On monetisation: “Direct creator monetisation is really important to us. We recently rolled out direct payments for creators in the app in the US, and one of the things that we’d like to do is roll out tipping, tickets and subscriptions,” said Rohan Seth, co-founder, Clubhouse.

On Clubhouse in India: “I was born in India, grew up in Delhi, and did my schooling there. I’ve always been astonished by the incredible creativity of Indians, and I’m just so excited that people around the world are going to discover that creativity on Clubhouse,” Seth said.

See also  Israeli firm raises $5 mln for tech to recognise mask-covered faces

Also Read: Clubhouse to launch payments feature in India


MNCs eye hiring in small towns

Global firms planning to recruit for their captive units in India are ramping up headcount in tier II and tier III towns, analysts told ET.

  • “The (Covid-19) pandemic has led to a lot of professionals from Tier I, II cities moving back to their hometowns. Cheaper cost of living combined with better work-life balance has convinced many to stay back,” said Vikram Ahuja, co-founder, Talent 500.


What’s different this time?
Hiring for this year is expected to pick up in smaller centres rather than be concentrated in locations like Bengaluru, Hyderabad or Pune.

  • According to ANSR, which helps companies set up offshore units, Tier II locations like Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram are attracting MNCs due to their robust supply chain network, engineering and research facilities.

There are about 1,600 global captive centres in India, which collectively employ over 1.3 million people of the 4.6 million technology workforce in the country. Companies like Uber, Mastercard, Bank of America, Schlumberger and Bosch already run their global captive units in tier II towns like Visakhapatnam, Vadodara, Gandhinagar and Coimbatore.

We earlier reported that about 100 multinational firms are expected to set up their global in-house capability centres, or captive units, in India this year.


ETtech Done Deals

  • Inmobi-owned lock screen content platform Glance is making an entry into the fast-growing influencer-led commerce segment with the acquisition of Shop101 as it looks to take on giants TikTok and Instagram globally.
  • SimpliContract, a SaaS-based contract lifecycle management platform, has raised $1.8 million in a seed funding round led by Kalaari Capital, with participation from Picus Capital, Arka Venture Labs, and Digital Sparrow Capital.
  • Convosight, a community monetisation platform, has secured $9 million in a Series A funding round led by Singapore-based venture firm Qualgro. Unilever Ventures, along with existing backers. IvyCap Ventures and Sequoia Capital India’s Surge also participated in the capital raising.

Other Top Stories We Are Covering

Indian students struggle to book US visa appointments: Several Indian students trying to book appointments for US visas took to Twitter to complain that the website had locked them out for up to 72 hours after they refreshed its appointments page, and that the site had crashed after being unable to handle the load.

MP HC admits PIL against Facebook, Twitter: The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre as well as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Twitter, seeking their response to a public interest litigation accusing the social networking platforms of hosting obscene, communal, unregulated and legally restricted content.


Global Picks We Are Reading

■ Goldman expands in crypto trading with plans for Ether options (Bloomberg)

■ Fake reviews, inflated ratings still a problem for Amazon (WSJ)

■ WhatsApp launches privacy campaign after backlash (BBC)





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