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Japan’s Incubate Fund leads pre-Series A round in office supplies portal Kobster

13 July, 2018

Chennai-based Kobster, an online procurement portal for office supplies, has raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-series A round of funding led by Japanese seed investment firm Incubate Fund, a company statement said.

Chandigarh Angel Network, Angel Network Middle East (ANME) and investors on the LetsVenture platform also participated in the round.

“In India, the office supply and MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) market are highly fragmented and still most of them do offline transactions. So if someone brings in efficiency by technology and internet to the market, such a business would grow,” Nao Murakami, general partner at Incubate Fund India, said.

The startup did not disclose how it would deploy the current tranche of funds but it said it was looking to raise its a Series A round to expand into Tier 2 cities, strengthen its category offering, build advanced technology features and penetrate deeper into the customer base.

Kobster’s last known publicly disclosed fund raising round was in 2015, when it secured an undisclosed sum from venture capital firm Splice Capital.

The six-year-old venture also counts Murugavel Janakiraman (founder and chief executive of Matrimony.com), Mahesh Parasuraman (co-founder and partner at Amicus Capital Partners), and Kishore Ganji (CEO at Astir IT Solutions Inc) among its other investors.

Operated by Kobster Eshop Pvt. Ltd the startup was established in July 2012 by Vineet Neeraj, Karthik R and Mohan G. Its cloud-based e-procurement tool Kobster Elite helps businesses and resellers procure office supplies in bulk. Its tech platform also helps cut costs and analyses spends through intelligent reports and analytics, according to information on the company’s website.

Kobster has partnered with more than 5,000 brands and vendors and offers over one lakh products across categories like stationary, housekeeping, pantry, electronics, IT consumables, electrical and others. Kobster, which claims to be operationally profitable, currently has physical presence in Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi/NCR, Hyderabad and Pune.

The company’s customers comprise more than 100 traditional and new-age corporate such as Oracle, Altisource, MindTree, Virtusa, Urban Ladder, CoWrks and DB Schenker.

Kobster was part of payments firm Paypal’s Start Tank incubation programme.

Prior to founding Kobster, Neeraj worked with companies like Cognizant and ArrayShield, while Karthik and Mohan were working at Cognizant and HCL, respectively. The three of them were batchmates and have completed their B Tech from SRM University, Chennai.

Other deals in B2B e-commerce

A number of startups operating in the business-to-business e-commerce space have recently attracted investor interest, with some getting acquired by larger entities and some scaling down operations.

Late last month, Chennai-based Aahaa Stores, an online B2B store for office supplies, raised $2 million (around Rs 13.6 crore) in a fresh round of funding from UAE-based investment group Calega.

In early June, ShakeDeal, a B2B bulk-sourcing online marketplace for industrial goods and raw materials, was acquired by US-based private equity firm Vora Ventures for an undisclosed amount.

In May this year, Bizongo, a B2B marketplace for packaging materials, raised $22 million (Rs 146.7 crore) in a Series B round from B Capital and International Finance Corporation (IFC). Existing investors Accel Partners and IDG Ventures also participated in the round.

In May this year, TechCircle reported that Bengaluru-based Sabonka Technologies Pvt Ltd, which runs B2B e-commerce platform Shotang, scaled down its operations while a co-founder left to join another firm.

In April, online classifieds company Info Edge (India) Ltd, which runs portals such as Naukri.com, invested Rs 3 crore ($460,000) in ShoeKonnect for a 20% stake in the online B2B marketplace for footwear.

In January, WOTU, which operates a B2B e-commerce portal for food and beverages, raised an undisclosed amount in a pre-Series A round of funding from Claris Capital and Mumbai Angels Network.

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Japan’s Incubate Fund leads pre-Series A round in office supplies portal Kobster

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