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Mitsui, others to pump $15 mn into shopping platform Naaptol
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Naaptol Online Pvt. Ltd, which runs an omnichannel shopping platform, is on course to raise $15 million (around Rs 109 crore at current exchange rates) in a bridge round of funding from some of its existing investors, a top company executive told TechCircle.

This marks the company’s first institutional funding in nearly three years.

Manu Agarwal, founder and chief executive officer of TV-first Naaptol, said the money will come from Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co, global financial services giant JPMorgan and US-headquartered venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates (NEA).

The Mumbai-based company has already received $10 million, or two-thirds, of the total amount.

A back-of-the-envelope estimate by TechCircle indicated that Naaptol is likely to raise this bridge round at a post-money valuation of around $272-275 million (around Rs 1,980 crore).

“The idea is to maintain our current scale and get to profitability,” Aggarwal told TechCircle over the phone. “This bridge round will perhaps help in reaching that milestone.”

Aggarwal claimed that Naaptol is already turning in operating profits and hopes to become EBITDA profitable in the next few quarters. EBITDA is short for earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation.

“A host of external factors, including demonetisation, flattened our growth over the last two years,” he said. “Things have stabilised since and are looking up. This time last year, we were losing around $2 million a month. We have reduced that number by half.”

Naaptol has no immediate plans to raise big-ticket funding after the bridge round is completed. But Aggarwal said that once the company turns profitable, it could open up further avenues including a possible initial public offering (IPO).

Naaptol’s last-known funding round took place in November 2015, when it raised $51.7 million (Rs 343 crore then) from Mitsui.

Earlier that year, it had raised $21.4 million (Rs 136 crore then) from Mitsui, NEA, Canaan Partners and Saama Capital.

Company

Naaptol was founded in 2008. It is a TV-first platform for product discovery.

The company sells its products through TV channels in multiple languages that include  Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada and Bengali.

Naaptol sells more than 5,000 products through 250 sellers on its platform under 100 categories. It caters to 24,000 pin codes across the country.

The categories include apparel & accessories, mobiles, tablets & computers,  home & kitchen, furniture jewellery & watches, car & bike accessories, consumer electronics, kids & toys, beauty & wellness, sports & fitness.

Aggarwal claims that 35 million customers have used Naaptol’s platform to purchase products since its inception.  

Besides TV, the company has also launched online and offline channels for commerce and has forayed into the business-to-business (B2B) category as part of its recent expansion plans.

It has four offline stores in Hyderabad, Indore, Kochi and Ahmedabad.

Tier-2 markets and beyond account for around 85% of of Naaptol’s customer base while the rest comes from Tier-1 cities and metros, said Aggarwal.

“With the whole Reliance Jio effect [of cheaper data], we notice there is a significant overlap that is beginning to happen between the TV and internet audience,” said Aggarwal. “So we are trying to use TV effectively to drive our primary audience towards our online e-commerce platform . We are already seeing good traction on that front.”

He said this success was in contrast to its experimentation with a “call to action” through mobile apps three years ago.

The company currently receives around 1 million orders a month and is clocking about Rs 40 crore during the same period in commission-based income, which is its primary revenue source, Aggarwal added.

In the financial year 2016-17, Naaptol had recorded nearly a 23% rise in operational revenues over the previous fiscal at Rs 549.55 crore, according to VCCEdge, the research arm of News Corp VCCircle. Likewise, gross expenditures showed a nearly 32% rise at Rs 711.99 crore, up from Rs 541.31 crore the previous year.

Consequently, net losses widened to Rs 135.62 crore in 2016-17, up from Rs 80.75 crore the previous fiscal

Indian e-commerce sweepstakes

The Indian e-commerce landscape has undergone a paradigm shift over the decade since Naaptol was founded. The firm now competes with the likes of deeper-pocketed players such as Amazon, Walmart-owned Flipkart and Alibaba-backed Paytm.

Since it is broadly believed that the next phase of growth is expected to come from Tier-2 cities and beyond, these players have already trained their guns on these markets, which is where firms like Naaptol and ShopClues have a strong presence.

According to Aggarwal, it is not going to be a walk in the park for the bigger players. The retail ecosystem is all about who can be more operationally profitable, he said..

“For e-commerce to succeed and penetrate better in Tier-2 and beyond, the bigger players will need to partner with those who already have a strong customer base in these markets when it comes to marketing and more particularly with discovery, educating and explaining e-commerce to this set of customers,” Aggarwal said.

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