Around 10-11 e-commerce companies, including Snapdeal and ShopClues, are in the process of forming a lobby group called ‘The E-commerce Council of India’, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The idea behind forming this group is to have an entity that represents the interest of ‘Indian e-commerce companies’, where a majority of the shareholding is Indian, the two people cited above said.
“The aim of this group is policy advocacy, exchange of best practices and a general engagement platform for the e-commerce companies in India. It is about having a focused voice on the e-commerce sector," said the first person cited above, requesting anonymity.
“More e-commerce company founders are expected to join this group eventually," the person added. The council is expected to make an official announcement later this month, added the second person cited above.
This development comes at a time when the Indian e-commerce sector has experienced several policy changes over the last few months —including the new foreign direct investment (FDI) rules and a draft e-commerce policy. The smaller e-commerce companies had also come together in January to request the government to not extend the 1 February deadline for FDI compliance.
Snapdeal and ShopClues did not immediately respond to queries sent by Mint seeking comment on the new lobby group.
“The formation of this group almost sounds like an anti-big boy club which does not include Flipkart, Paytm, etc," said an entrepreneur, requesting anonymity. “That said, there seems to be a constant need which is being felt by most of the industry that the Indian sector needs to have a voice."
Previously, startup heavyweights such as Sachin Bansal and Bhavish Aggarwal had come together in 2017 to form IndiaTech, a lobby group for e-commerce companies. However, post Bansal’s exit from Flipkart last year, the lobby group has been trying to kick-start operations under its new chief executive Rameesh Kailasam, as Mint reported in October.
IndiaTech, whose founding members include MakemyTrip, Ola and investment firm Steadview Capital, has formulated an agenda that includes seeking a level-playing field for Indian startups, loosening of initial public offering (IPO) regulations and a differential voting structure that would protect the interests of Indian entrepreneurs against powerful investors.
Several policy and industry experts Mint spoke with, are unsure about how things will pan out if multiple lobby groups are created for the same sector.
“From what I understand, the government prefers to listen to one group—for instance, Nasscom is the group for IT companies," said one of the policy experts, requesting anonymity. “But the key thing for the group representative would be to know what they are talking about, backing it up with gravitas and presenting the argument well."