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Inside SoftBank's high-profile investments in Indian startups

Priyamvada Mathur

India is currently undergoing an internet revolution, with the number of web users in the country—particularly those in rural areas—expected to grow from 566 million to 627 million this year, per Business Today, which cites market research agency Kantar IMRB. As millions of Indians come online for the first time, the door is being opened to a number of startup opportunities.

While India strives to offer low-cost internet access for its citizens, SoftBank and its mighty Vision Fund have been quick to tap the potential of web-based businesses operating in a country with a population of more than 1.3 billion.

The latest example includes Grofers, which has raised $200 million in a round led by the Vision Fund, with participation from KTB, Tiger Global and Sequoia, per reports. Founded in 2013 and based in Gurgaon, the company operates an online marketplace for grocery shopping across 25 cities in India. In an interview with Bloomberg, Grofers co-founder and CEO Albinder Dhindsa indicated that his company "had a top line of $400 million and grew 8x in the last two years." Prior to this latest round, Grofers had raised a reported $288 million in VC funding to date.

The company's fresh financing comes a week after Bengaluru-based rival BigBasket is said to have picked up a $150 million round from investors including Alibaba.

SoftBank reportedly first invested in Grofers in 2015 and appears to be taking over web-based businesses in India one mega-deal at a time. Here's a look at four of the Japanese telecom giant's other high-profile deals in the space: Ola Indian ridehailing company Ola has been backed by SoftBank since 2014. In 2017, the business also raised a reported $1.1 billion round led by Tencent, with participation from SoftBank. Founded in 2011 and based in Bengaluru, Ola uses its online platform to offer services in more than 125 cities across India, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. The company claims over 1 million registered drivers. Oyo Founded in 2013 and based in Gurugram, Oyo operates a budget hotel chain platform with a presence in Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The business raised a reported $1 billion round led by SoftBank last September at an estimated valuation of $5 billion. It has collected more than $1.5 billion in combined funding from SoftBank as well as other investors including Sequoia, Lightspeed and Greenoaks Capital. SoftBank also began a joint venture with Oyo in April to expand the company's operations into Japan. Paytm Digital payments provider Paytm raised $1.4 billion from SoftBank in 2017 at a reported valuation of about $8 billion; it reportedly later invested $400 million as part of a $445 million round the company raised in April 2018. Based in Noida, Paytm claims to be India's largest payments business, catering to a merchant base of more than 8 million. The company's other backers include Alibaba and Ant Financial. PolicyBazaar PolicyBazaar, which provides an online insurance comparison platform and a lending marketplace, brought in a $200 million financing led by SoftBank's Vision Fund last June at an estimated valuation of $1 billion. The company's platform offers more than 250 insurance plans across a variety of insurance companies. Founded in 2008 and based in Gurgaon, PolicyBazaar is backed by investors including Tiger Global and Temasek.

Featured image of The India Gate via Mlenny/iStock/Getty Images Plus
 

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