digital commerce

Why Walmart and Amazon are desperate to buy Flipkart

A controlling stake in Flipkart – one of India’s most successful startups – could ensure a win in the country’s retail space.

The Indian e-commerce sector seems to have turned into a battleground for two American giants.

In recent weeks, several news reports have suggested that retail major Walmart and e-commerce behemoth Amazon are in the fray to acquire a majority stake in Bengaluru-based Flipkart. Currently, Japan’s Softbank is the largest investor in the company.

Last week, Reuters reported that Arkansas-based retail giant Walmart has completed its due diligence on Flipkart and has made a proposal to buy a 51% stake in it for between $10 billion (Rs 66,527.5 crore) and $12 billion (Rs 79,833 crore). The deal could close by the end of June, the news agency said.

At the same time, Seattle-based e-commerce major Amazon, too, is trying to acquire a significant stake in the Indian e-retail major, FactorDaily has reported. The American firm has even offered a “breakup fee” of up to $2 billion. A breakup fee is a penalty set during the process of takeover agreements, to be paid if the target backs out of the deal. The fee underscores the seriousness of the negotiations.

Meanwhile, none of the three companies has so far commented on the reported talks. Walmart and Flipkart did not respond to emails from Quartz. “We do not comment on rumours and speculation,” an Amazon India spokesperson said.

But whichever way the deal goes, it will mark a significant milestone for the Indian e-commerce sector.

Why Flipkart matters

Despite its mounting losses, Flipkart is widely considered one of India’s most successful startups. Holding a controlling stake in the company can go a long way in ensuring a win in the Indian retail space.

For one, Flipkart is the world’s third-most funded private company, having raised over $7 billion from some of the best-known global investors such as Softbank, Tiger Global, DST Global, Morgan Stanley, and Accel Partners, among others.

Founded in 2008 by Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi alumni Sachin Basal and Binny Bansal (not related), Flipkart is the most valued Indian internet business, commanding a peak valuation of over $15 billion.

The company has made at least 10 acquisitions in the 10 years of its existence. Its purchases include online lifestyle retailers Myntra and Jabong, which have made Flipkart a leader in the segment by a wide margin. The firm employs around 8,000 permanent employees and over 20,000 contract workers.

While Flipkart is often looked at as an Amazon rip-off, the company, to its credit, was the first to introduce the “cash on delivery” payment method, one of the biggest factors for its success.

The company has also managed to establish itself in an overcrowded market, overtaking once close rival Snapdeal, which imploded in 2017.

Flipkart has a higher level of trust among Indian shoppers as compared to even Amazon, according to a December survey by e-commerce advisory firm RedSeer Consulting.

Flipkart and Walmart

Despite having entered India over a decade ago, Walmart’s presence in the country has been limited to just around 20 business-to-business stores, thanks to the government’s restrictive policies and a failed joint venture. In 2014, the company had said that it planned to look at e-commerce to expand its footprint in India. However, there has not been much action on that front till now.

Having Flipkart in its kitty could finally help Walmart establish itself in India’s $670-billion retail market.

Since the company is still tied down by policy constraints, “Flipkart is the perfect match where Walmart can capture more of the Indian retail market”, Ankur Bisen, vice-president for consumer and retail at consulting firm Technopak Advisors, told Quartz.

A traditional brick-and-mortar retailer, Walmart has already made several organic and inorganic moves in the United States to woo buyers who are increasingly moving online. A similar strategy could work in India. It helps that the Indian e-commerce space is still not as cut-throat as in the United States or other Asian countries, Bisen said. “In terms of competition intensity, India has few key players vying for e-commerce dominance compared to other Asian markets such as Japan and China,” he added.

Flipkart also stands to gain from the over $3-trillion Walmart’s retail experience of more than 50 years in the United States.

“The biggest impact this investment will have is that Flipkart will have an investor who understands retail and has done it at scale,” Yugal Joshi, vice-president of Texas-based consulting and research firm Everest Group, said in February.

“But given their history, Amazon must be prepared for such a move by Walmart.”

Flipkart and Amazon

The two companies have fought an epic battle for supremacy over the last five years, from teasing each other to taking pot shots and from poaching talent to lobbying the government. Yet, neither is close to being a clear winner.

While Flipkart wins on some parameters, Amazon is ahead on others. For instance, while Indian shoppers trust Flipkart more than Amazon, the shopping experience on the latter is deemed better.

Once a deal is struck between Amazon and Flipkart, the combined entity can focus on profitability rather than the competition, according to experts.

Amazon’s investments in discounting, advertising, and logistics in India have been among the biggest drivers of incremental losses for the company in the recent years, Morgan Stanley Research said in a report on April 12. “As such, in our view, Amazon’s potential willingness to pay for Flipkart is likely driven by the notion that a combined Amazon and Flipkart would lead to a less competitive or more rational environment [less discounting, for instance] going forward. It could also enable Amazon to scale its budding logistics network faster and more profitably,” it said.

However, Flipkart’s co-founders, once Amazon employees, favour Walmart as a potential investor as that will allow them to continue leading the company, Bloomberg reported, quoting unidentified sources.

And even if Amazon does buy a stake in Flipkart, it could face regulatory challenges as the combined entity will be a dominant player and may trigger anti-competition issues.

Suneera Tandon contributed to this story.

This article first appeared on Quartz.

Support our journalism by subscribing to Scroll+ here. We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

Play

This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.