Mumbai: Online shopping platform ShopClues.com is looking to invest close to $50 million in either buying stakes or acquiring as many as eight start-ups to accelerate expansion in India’s fast-growing e-commerce market.

ShopClues will look to clinch deals in the so-called hyperlocal, ad-tech and Internet payment domains over the next three-four months, a top company executive said.

The company, which is in the market to raise fresh funds, has kept aside close to $20-25 million in cash for the investments. The acquisitions will be largely stock-driven or acqui-hires—deals done primarily to access expertise of the acquired firm’s employees.

“Given the crunch in capital markets, ShopClues is seeing a lot of start-ups up for sale at reasonable valuations. Until two months ago, start-ups were quoting unreasonable numbers; however, the market seems more realistic now," said Sanjay Sethi, co-founder and chief executive officer of ShopClues.

According to Sethi, the company is expected to raise its next funding round within the current financial year. Though he did not comment on the size of the fund raising, it is expected to be in the range of $100-150 million, according to people familiar with the development.

ShopClues received $100 million in a funding round led by Tiger Global Management in January this year.

ShopClues, run by Clues Network Pvt. Ltd, has already picked up a high double-digit stake in Delhi-based hyperlocal services app HeyBiz, Sethi said without disclosing details.

“These start-ups might not be of interest to VCs but might make sense for the established e-commerce firms for their teams or expansion," said Sumir Verma, founder of investment bank Merisis. “As venture capital (VC) firms become more stringent with their investment strategies, you will see a lot of acquisitions or acqui-hires going forward."

Gurgaon-based ShopClues is also exploring deals in the ad-tech, payments and the consumer-to-consumer e-commerce category.

“We are looking at categories wherever we are too distracted to enter or want a faster foothold in," said Sethi.

HeyBiz, run by Techlites Solutions Pvt. Ltd, helps users connect with businesses through real-time mobile chat. ShopClues will leverage the HeyBiz platform to further enhance its hyperlocal technology platform and eventually use HeyBiz to enter the hyperlocal services play.

HeyBiz allows users to search, connect, follow, chat and get queries answered from nearby businesses or services on its app.

HeyBiz, which is currently available in the National Capital Region centred on Delhi, plans to use the proceeds of its stake sale to enhance the product and expand its reach across India.

“We intend on expanding into newer geographies like Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Lucknow and Jaipur," said Bhartesh Chhibbar, founder of HeyBiz.

After Flipkart, Snapdeal and Paytm, ShopClues, too, is preparing to enter hyperlocal commerce by January. ShopClues Local will be a platform on which customers will be connected with sellers and markets through apps and deliver products on demand in a few hours or even quicker.

The company is also looking to invest in payments services providers as it plans to launch its own mobile wallet. “Though we have a 15-20 people payments team, we are looking for domain experts and someone who has strong relationships with the banking community," said Sethi.

ShopClues, which counts the Indian middle class looking to buy unbranded goods as its target clientele, currently has over 300,000 sellers on its platform.

Founded in July 2011 in Silicon Valley by Sandeep Aggarwal, Radhika Aggarwal and Sethi, ShopClues currently has more than 100 million monthly visitors on its website with 35 million listed products and ships in more than 25,000 cities across India.

It has more than 900 employees and is backed by investors including Tiger Global, Nexus Venture Partners and Helion Ventures.

Separately, ShopClues is also ramping up its senior management team and is looking to appoint a chief financial officer and a chief technology officer. “We are meeting people and are yet to make any hires," said Sethi.

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