More niche acquisitions likely in e-commerce sector, say analysts

Arpita Mukherjee, Business Today

New Delhi , 19 December 2014

In a bid to strengthen their presence in the e-commerce sector, large players such as Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart are likely to look at acquiring companies with niche, differential capabilities, say industry analysts.

With the recent acquisition of gifting technology platform Wishpicker by Snapdeal and reports about its acquisition of online order management platform Unicommerce, experts feel e-commerce players are looking to benefit from the vertical capabilities that such companies have on offer.

"Snapdeal will be able to leverage Unicommerce’s platforms to achieve in-depth visibility into its vendor profiles in terms of both inventory and accounts as well as improve its customer services," says Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and CEO, Greyhound Research.

Snapdeal is flush with cash after recently receiving $627 million in funding from Softbank. The online retailer earlier this year also acquired social product discovery technology platform

With Flipkart acquiring Myntra this year, and several other acquisitions that have been taking place over the past couple of years, this seems to be one of the trends emerging in the industry, says Devangshu Dutta, CEO of consulting firm Third Eyesight. "The key word is differential, because the generic ones have already happened to a certain extent," says Dutta.

Arvind Singhal, Chairman of Technopak Advisors, says that as investment dries up for the several niche smaller players who have been unable to show growth, these are likely to be snapped up by the bigger players. "We will see that happen more in the next few months," says Singhal. "Amazon, Flipkart, Snapdeal will start looking for specialty players, or very niche specialty players, either for the market, or for technology."

Analysts also note that while this kind of consolidation helps establish one or a few clear winners, it is not good for the industry as a whole.

According to Harminder Sahni, Managing Director of consultancy Wazir Advisors, for any industry to strive there needs to be a lot of players, creativity and lots of new ideas. And, primarily driven by investor interest, with these kinds of acquisitions, the industry is likely to go the modern retail way where there are only a few players such as Shoppers Stop and Future Group. "(Investors) are not interested in building a large ecosystem where a lot of players strive. They want to have a winner and they all want to be a part of that winner," says Sahni.

(Published in Business Today)