Uber Eats India likely to end up on Swiggy’s plate


February 22, 2019

Written By Aditi Shrivastava & Samidha Sharma, ET Bureau

BENGALURU | NEW DELHI: In what would be one of the most significant consolidation moves in the sector, Uber Eats, the food delivery arm of the global ride-hailing platform, is in final stages of negotiations to sell its India business to rival Swiggy, three people privy to the development told ET. The deal, which is expected to close by next month, will be Swiggy’s largest acquisition till date, and Uber’s first divestment of its food business globally.

The transaction is likely to be a share swap, sources said, giving Uber about 10% stake in the Bengaluru-based company last valued at $3.3 billion.

The development is in line with Uber’s global strategy to cut down on losses as it prepares for a public offering at a possible valuation of $120-150 billion. For the ride-hailing giant, Uber Eats alone is estimated to be valued at over $20 billion. The business generated $1.5 billion in revenue globally in the first quarter of 2018, according to US-based tech news portal, The Information.

High Cash Burn

“It is prudent to be invested in Swiggy than burn capital competing for the same set of restaurants and consumers,” said a source in the know of the deal. “This should bring some rationality to the cashguzzling food-delivery market,” this person added, hinting that discounts are likely to significantly reduce post integration.

In the past year or so, both Swiggy and Gurgaon-based Zomato have been raising capital as they have gone on a tear to acquire new customers. Along with these two, the market has seen heightened discounting by Uber Eats and Ola’s Foodpanda which has led to high cash burn by these companies.

Sources said that Uber Eats had also held discussions with Zomato, but those talks fell through. In an emailed statement to ET, spokespersons for Uber and Swiggy said, “We do not comment on rumour or speculation.”

Uber Eats India racked up a cash burn of around $25 million on an average 9 million orders a month, a top executive at the firm told ET. Swiggy burns about $40-45 million a month on its food business, according to industry estimates.

The deal talks come at a time when Uber’s India rival Ola has put its food business under Foodpanda in the slow lane, and cut marketing and customer acquisition costs by two-thirds. The company is now focusing on its own private labels and cloud kitchens which include The Great Khichdi Experiment, Lovemade and FLRT brands.

“Last-mile logistics is an operations-heavy, low-margin business. In the long run, I don’t see how the market can sustain so many parallel micro-logistics networks,” said Kartik Hosanagar, professor of technology & digital business at The Wharton School.

Over the last couple of months, Uber Eats has grown in markets such as Hyderabad, Chennai and Pune. Experts say consolidation has been on the cards in the food-delivery business. “Consolidation will happen due to the thin operating margins and market acquisition costs, which will place enormous pressure on the companies to raise capital,” said Devangshu Dutta, chief executive of Third Eyesight, a specialist retail consulting firm.

In India, Uber Eats was launched in May 2017 and is currently present in 37 cities across the country. Swiggy’s largest investor, South African media and internet conglomerate Naspers, has been particularly bullish on the market potential in the Indian food delivery space.

“Food delivery is a perfect example of our strategy in action with online platform capabilities that address a large offline societal need in a high-growth market. It’s still early days, but if you look at the growth in revenue and the underlying operating metrics, it gives us real confidence in the potential here,” said Naspers CEO Bob van Dijk in a recent investor call.

Source: economictimes