Bengaluru: By now, it’s clear that valuations of a majority of India’s top e-commerce companies ran ahead of themselves last year. Indian unicorns, or start-ups valued at $1 billion or more, are almost all struggling to justify their lofty valuations. But it’s not just valuations that were in la la land.

Last year, spurred on by investors eager to justify their risky bets, e-commerce companies set ambitions that were out of touch with reality, like hopeless New Year’s resolutions.

Mint chronicles some of the goals that Indian unicorns spelled out but missed by big margins. If these goals are anything to go by, it would seem as if accountability isn’t high on the list of priorities at many e-commerce firms.

Or perhaps the statements chronicled below simply comprise a low-risk, free-of-cost public relations strategy. If that’s the case, rose-coloured projections from start-ups are unlikely to stop any time soon.

Flipkart

In an interview with the Economic Times newspaper last September, a top Flipkart executive said the company would hit annualized gross merchandise value (GMV) of $10 billion by March 2016.

GMV refers to the value of goods sold on a site, not actual revenue, and excludes discounts.

In reality, Flipkart managed just half of that number by December, after which its sales growth has stagnated. The company also lost out to arch rival Amazon India in a big way last year and has failed to convince at least 15 investors to put up money at its preferred valuation of $15 billion.

Flipkart denies the investor talks and says its sales have grown at “a steady pace" since November. The company, however, refuses to disclose its GMV.

Myntra (owned by Flipkart)

When online fashion retailer Myntra went app-only last May, the online fashion retailer set a target of generating annualized GMV of $1 billion by March 2016. A few months later, it pushed that target back by one year. To be fair, Myntra, unlike most other e-commerce firms, at least admitted publicly that it failed to reach its stated goal.

Snapdeal

Last August, online marketplace Snapdeal set a target of becoming the largest e-commerce company in India by March 2016.

Its chief executive officer Kunal Bahl was quoted in an Economic Times report as saying that the company will be “decisively ahead" of Flipkart in terms of GMV by March 2016.

Instead, Snapdeal’s monthly sales numbers have declined since November and the company hasn’t overtaken Flipkart. It could manage to raise only a tenth of its fund-raising target in the last round and, like Flipkart, the company is struggling to convince investors to put up cash at its preferred valuation. In an earlier Mint report, Snapdeal denied the investor talks and said it’s growing at over 200% year-over-year, without specifying which period the growth is for. It refused to disclose its current GMV.

Snapdeal didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on why it failed to achieve its goal of overtaking Flipkart.

Paytm

Payments start-up Paytm launched its e-commerce business only in 2014, years after Flipkart and Snapdeal. But that didn’t stop the company from spelling out growth targets that would put its rivals to shame.

Alibaba-backed Paytm said in an April 2015 interview with Mint that it will generate annualized GMV of more than $4 billion by December 2015. In an interview this February with the Hindu BusinessLine newspaper, Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the company was clocking GMV of $3 billion, which means it missed its sales target. No sweat. Paytm has set an even more ambitious target of hitting $10 billion in GMV by this December.

Zomato

The restaurant-discovery service ended 2014 on a high note. After closing a big round of funding, the company claimed in a Mint interview that it will operate in 35 countries by the end of 2015 from 20 countries then. Fast forward to today, the company operates in 23 countries, has cut 10% of its staff and changed its top priority towards becoming profitable.

Ola and Uber

Cab-hailing services Ola and Uber claim numbers that cannot be reconciled.

In a 16 March interview published in Mint, Eric Alexander, president of business in Asia for Uber, claimed the company will surpass Ola in terms of market share in a month’s time.

A day after Alexander’s interview was published, Ola chief marketing officer Raghuvesh Sarup told Bloomberg that the company’s newly launched low-cost offering, Micro, may do more daily cab rides than all of Uber India in one month’s time.

Clearly, one of them is being untruthful. Or maybe both?

It’s been one month since they made their respective projections. Neither Ola nor Uber responded to emails seeking comment on whether they have achieved their goals.

Close