Flipkart’s Sachin Bansal looks to set up lobby group for Indian start-ups

Sachin Bansal has approached Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal, Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma to be part of the Indian start-ups’ lobby group


Flipkart’s executive chairman Sachin Bansal wants to form a lobby group that will represent the interests of Indian consumer Internet start-ups. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Flipkart’s executive chairman Sachin Bansal wants to form a lobby group that will represent the interests of Indian consumer Internet start-ups. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Flipkart co-founder and executive chairman Sachin Bansal is talking to several Indian entrepreneurs and influential investors to create a lobby group that will represent the interests of Indian consumer Internet start-ups, three people familiar with the matter said.

Bansal has approached Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal, Snapdeal’s Kunal Bahl, Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma and IAMAI (Internet and Mobile Association of India) chairman Kunal Shah to be part of the group, said the people cited above, asking not to be identified.

Hike’s Kavin Bharti Mittal and Quikr’s Pranay Chulet have also been approached, the people said.

It’s not yet clear who all will join the proposed group finally, they said.

Bansal has also held talks with Nandan Nilekani (co-founder and former CEO of Infosys Ltd and ex-chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India) and iSpirt, a software products think tank, seeking advice and suggestions.

“The discussions are in early stages and it is still not clear what the agenda behind the alliance is. Sachin has been thinking about this lobby group for over a year now,” said one of the three people mentioned above.

Until now, intense competition, acrimonious relations and ego battles between entrepreneurs have prevented large Indian Internet companies from coming together to form a trade association. IAMAI does represent the interests of Internet companies in general but it is dominated by foreign entities.

Bansal wants the proposed trade association to solely fight for local companies such as Flipkart and Ola, the people cited above said. The association would primarily lobby with the government for favourable laws for Indian companies, countering Chinese and US consumer Internet firms as well as India’s powerful brick-and-mortar retail lobby.

Bansal, Shah and spokespersons for Ola and Snapdeal did not respond to emails seeking comment. Nilekani and iSpirt couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

India’s start-up ecosystem has seen the rise of voices calling for preferential treatment for local firms. Many entrepreneurs and investors have pointed to the example of China, which makes it difficult for Google, Facebook and Twitter to operate in the country, and promotes local companies such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Some have even raised the bogey of national security.

Analysts say that there’s some irony in local start-ups demanding preferential treatment. Flipkart, Ola and many other Indian start-ups are themselves heavily backed by foreign investors including Tiger Global Management Llc and SoftBank Group Corp.,they add.

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