Asian Giants Bet Big on Digital India

Asian investors are making big plays in the Indian venture ecosystem and are honing in on all things India mobile.

big-on-digital-india

In today’s news, sources indicate that Chinese digital commerce giant Alibaba, through its separate payment unit Alipay, is set to make its second investment into India, this time into Indian low-cost mobile phone maker Micromax. Earlier this year, the group invested in Paytm, a fast-growing Indian digital payment company.

It’s not just the Chinese who are making big bets on India’s digital economy. Softbank Corp. of Japan owns large mobile-phone service providers in Japan and the U.S. (such as the U.S. telecom company Sprint) and is also an active venture investor in Internet and technology companies. SoftBank took the lead in a $627 million investment round in Snapdeal, an online retailer in India whose biggest rivals are India’s favorite unicorn Flipkart (which just raised another round in which GIC, the sovereign wealth arm of Singapore, invested) and Amazon India. Softbank also led a $210 million investment into Ola, the Indian version of Uber (and what do you know, Singapore’s GIC invested in Ola too). More recently, Softbank led a more modest $90 million investment round into Housing.com, an Indian real estate search portal now valued at about $250 million.

In addition to Singapore’s GIC, Temasek is also making strides in Indian tech, most notably, through its recent investment in online retailer Snapdeal.

Collectively, these overseas Asian investors are invested in mobile companies with currently estimated valuations in excess of $26 billion dollars. It is somewhat reassuring that, also in today’s news, Ratan Tata countered the trend by taking a minority stake in Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi, which looks poised to duke it out with its Indian rival Micromax, soon to be owned by Alibaba.

Ms. Asma Chandani is a corporate attorney, Founder of DaWall Street (www.dawallstreet.in), Chair of the American Bar Association India Policy Committee and Advisory Board member of Billion Dollar Babies.

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