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Facebook, Sequoia Bet on Indian Startup in $125 Million Funding Round

Saritha Rai

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. is participating in a $125 million fundraising for an Indian startup that is aiming to bring more commerce to social networks like, well, Facebook.

Meesho, based in Bangalore, is what’s known in the tech industry as a social commerce startup, allowing people to build connections online and then sell through services such as Facebook and its WhatsApp and Instagram services. The funding round was led by South Africa’s Naspers Ltd. and also included Sequoia, Shunwei Capital, Venture Highway and Arun Sarin, the former chief executive officer of Vodafone Group Plc.

Meesho is part of a crop of new e-commerce companies that are trying to take advantage of social connections to facilitate sales. The startup says that it has a network of more than 2 million “social sellers” in 700 towns across India, focusing on categories like apparel, wellness and electronics.

“Our social sellers are small retailers, women, students and retired citizens, with 70% being homemakers who have found financial freedom and a business identity without having to step outside their homes,” said Vidit Aatrey, Meesho co-Founder and CEO.

India has become an increasingly competitive market for e-commerce, the last unclaimed major country after Amazon.com Inc. took hold of the U.S. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. won China. Amazon is spending billions to gain share in India, while Walmart Inc. paid $16 billion for control of local leader Flipkart Online Service Pvt.

Naspers has a history of backing startups in China and India -- and reaping big profits. It invested in China’s gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. and India’s Flipkart, before the Walmart purchase. It led a $1 billion funding round in the Bangalore-based online food company Swiggy in December.

Naspers shares have risen 23% this year, valuing the company at about $98 billion.

--With assistance from Loni Prinsloo.

To contact the reporter on this story: Saritha Rai in Bangalore at srai33@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net, Edwin Chan

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