Alphabet Inc.’s (GOOGL) Google is expected to be the latest entrant in the fiercely competitive Indian retail industry. Google is planning to partner with Alibaba Inc. (BABA)-backed Paytm Mall, a leading Indian e-commerce marketplace, payment system and digital wallet company, in a consortium expected to jointly pick up 7% to 10% stake in the Future Retail Ltd. for a price ranging from $500 million to $572 million, according to The Economic Times.
The NSE-listed Future Retail is a part of the Kishore Biyani-led Future Group, the largest retail chain in the country. It operates around 1,035 stores spread across 255 Indian cities that cover a total retail space of 14.5 million square feet and serves more than 500 million customers per year. Dubbed as the retail king of India, Biyani has been on an acquisition spree in recent years. He has bought six superstore chains over the last six years.
The consortium is expected to compete against Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN), the world’s largest online retailer, which has expressed similar interest in Future Retail by submitting a term sheet some time back. A term sheet is a non-binding agreement that sets forth the preliminary terms and conditions under which a proposed investment can be made. It acts as a template to build more detailed contracts later.
Biyani's Quest for Strategic Alliances
Amid intensifying competition in the retail space in the world’s second-largest country by population, Future Group chief Kishore Biyani has been exploring the possibilities of raising capital through strategic alliances. Earlier reports indicate that Biyani met Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in the U.S. and Alibaba executives in China. While Biyani refused to comment on the Google-Alibaba consortium, in an earlier interview he did provide pointers about a possible alliance with foreign entities. “Ultimately, it’s all about how formidable we all are. As players get bigger, you need alliances,” Biyani told The Economic Times earlier this month.
Amid blurring lines between online and offline retailers, Walmart Inc. (WMT) purchased Indian online retail bellwether Flipkart for $16 billion few months back, while Amazon, too, is trying to make inroads in Indian brick-and-mortar retail in addition to its increasing investments in online selling in that country. (See also: Amazon, Goldman May Buy Large Indian Grocery Chain.)
Apparently, Google’s interest in Future Retail is due to its vested interest of bringing its online shopping platform Google Express to India. The Mountain View, California-based company is already serving the Indian online and app-based grocers, like BigBasket and Grofers, by promoting their products through Google Shopping.
Alibaba already has significant interest in various Indian entities like Paytm Mall and BigBasket. Getting a stake in the established Future Retail through Google-partnered venture will help it build upon Jack Ma’s New Retail theory, which aims to develop new-era commerce by facilitating seamless engagement between the online and offline world. (See also: The World's Top 10 Retailers.)