“Meesho has emerged as a market leader in its sector," said one of the four people cited above, requesting anonymity. “This is one of the reasons why SoftBank is evaluating an investment in the company."
“The talks are at an early stage," said the second person cited above.
While SoftBank declined to comment for the story, Meesho denied any such discussions.
Founded in 2015 by IIT-Delhi batchmates Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal, Meesho is a platform that connects manufacturers with re-sellers, who eventually sell these products to users through social media platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
Meesho offers services such as payments and logistics to these re-sellers which enables ease of transactions and sales.
In the last four years, Meesho has grown to 15,000 suppliers and two million re-sellers across India, said Aatrey in June.
If the latest investment into Meesho takes place, it will also mark SoftBank’s foray into signing relatively smaller cheques and venturing early into companies as opposed to its prior big-cheque bets on Paytm, Flipkart, Ola and Oyo. Mint reported on 4 June that SoftBank is revising its India-strategy and is scouting for smaller deals.
Other companies in this space include Mumbai-based Shop101 and Bengaluru-based GlowRoad. Shop101 last raised $11 million from Kalaari Capital and Unilever Ventures in December. GlowRoad raised $10 million in April in a round led by China’s CDH along with participation from existing investor Accel Partners.
That said, Meesho has emerged as a market leader in the social commerce sector, which has perhaps prompted SoftBank to look at this company, say industry experts.
Investor interest in Meesho reflects a larger trend of investment firms wanting to invest in the social commerce space, which aims at primarily providing an online shopping experience of unbranded products and targeting users in Tier II markets and beyond.
Social commerce companies are the second wave of e-commerce companies in India after Flipkart and Amazon, but the primary target audience for social commerce firms are small-town users.
“Different models of social commerce are emerging and are able to target the next wave of internet users," said an investor tracking the space, requesting anonymity. “It is difficult for companies such as Amazon and Flipkart to get into this mostly unbranded sector -- which is why investors are interested in betting on social commerce companies."
Meesho has raised close to $100 million so far, with $50 million poured into the firm in November from new investors including Shunwei Capital, DST Partners and RPS Ventures. Other investors in the company include Sequoia India and SAIF Partners. At that time, Meesho was said to be valued at $200-250 million.
*M Sriram from Mumbai contributed to this story.
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