3 min read.Updated: 20 Oct 2021, 01:19 AM ISTJoseph Rai,Debjyoti Roy
Both direct-to-consumer platforms are in separate talks to raise funds
India got its first D2C unicorn this month when Licious pocketed $52 mn from IIFL AMC’s PE fund at a $1 billion valuation
The planned direct-to-consumer (D2C) platform of online eyewear retailer Lenskart and Thrasio-style investment venture GlobalBees are in separate discussions to raise funds at unicorn valuations, underscoring robust investor interest in the evolving D2C space in India, two people familiar with the development said.
Lenskart plans to launch the D2C platform and carve it out as a separate unit while raising an undisclosed sum from New York-based Falcon Edge, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
Falcon Edge is an existing investor in Lenskart. The latter plans to use the fresh capital to build other D2C offerings in eye care and eye fashion, the people said.
Meanwhile, GlobalBees is in talks to raise $300 million in a round led by SoftBank, and with participation from homegrown private equity firm ChrysCapital at a valuation of a little more than $1 billion, the people cited above said.
Another person in the know, however, said that SoftBank may participate, but not lead the round. Other existing investors are likely to lead GlobalBees’ new funding round, the person added. GlobalBees’ parent, First Cry, has $400 million on its books and will need to invest in the subsidiary if it wants to retain control.
GlobalBees is a Thrasio-style venture that aggregates and invests in e-commerce brands.
Lenskart, GlobalBees, Falcon Edge, SoftBank and ChrysCap did not respond to email queries.
Lenskart has raised a slew of funding rounds in the past years. This July, it raised $220 million from investors, including Temasek Holdings Pte and Falcon Edge, taking its valuation to $2.5 billion.
Founded by Peyush Bansal in 2010, Lenskart sells eyeglasses, contact lenses and sunglasses online and through about 750 retail outlets across India.
Lenskart plans to use the funds raised in the July round, along with $95 million raised in May from KKR & Co., to expand online sales and add brick-and-mortar stores in the country, South-East Asia and West Asia.
Lenskart claims to be the largest eyewear seller in India and seeks to become the leader in its new markets of South-East Asia and West Asia.
The combined market opportunity in India and its overseas markets is projected at more than $15 billion by 2025, according to Lenskart.
The company expects to sell about 10.5 million pairs of eyewear by 31 March.
GlobalBees, too, raised $150 million in a mix of equity and debt this July. The round was led by FirstCry.
Other investors in the round included Vikas Agnihotri of SoftBank, Harsha Kumar of Lightspeed, Atul Gupta of PremjiInvest, Sudhir Sethi of Chiratae Ventures and Kshitij Sheth of ChrysCapital.
GlobalBees was founded by FirstCry founder Supam Maheshwari and a former executive at Edelweiss Financial Services, Nitin Agarwal, earlier this year.
The company said at the time that it plans to partner with digitally native brands across categories such as beauty and personal care, home, kitchen, food, nutrition, sports, and lifestyle, with a revenue rate of $1 million to $20 million.
Besides making strategic investments, GlobalBees plans to help the brands scale and diversify their digital footprint through D2C channels. It also plans to support product development, branding and other key activities such as warehousing and logistics.
Earlier this month, GlobalBees acquired Matrix Partners-backed AndMe in its second acquisition in less than two months. In August, GlobalBees acquired the homecare brand, The Better Home.
GlobalBees is not the only Thrasio-style venture that has attracted funding in India. Myntra and Medlife executive Ananth Narayanan-founded Mensa Brands raised $50 million as part of its Series A funding round led by Accel, Falcon Edge Capital and Norwest Venture Partners earlier in May.
In August, UpScalio raised $42.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Presight Capital and an undisclosed global hedge fund.
India is witnessing the rise of D2C brands across categories and is estimated to have a $100 billion addressable market by 2025, according to an October note by Avendus.
D2C brands such as Lenskart, Licious, Zivame, BoAt, Wow Skin Science, Healthkart, Mamaearth, MyGlamm, Sugar, IncNut, Country Delight, among others, are occupying niches and creating aspirational brands and extraordinary value in their respective sectors, the note said.
Avendus attributes the emergence of the D2C distribution channel to the internet ecosystem and evolving consumer needs that have made new business models viable.
Avendus said that companies using the D2C channel “have an emotional connect with their consumers, fostered by a unique brand identity and a clear value proposition".
D2C brands, according to Avendus, are characterized by their “agile DNA, innovative marketing, efficient operational processes and effective use of technology".
“With access to customer data, D2C brands leverage consumption insights, work on a feedback-led model and rapidly develop products to ensure that the evolving customer needs are addressed," the note added.
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