JSE-listed technology giant Naspers is leading a US$125-million (R1.9-billion) funding round in Indian “social commerce” marketplace Meesho in a bid to “kick-start e-commerce for the next 500 million online shoppers”.
Other firms participating in the fundraising include Facebook and existing investors SAIF, Sequoia, Shunwei Capital, RPS and Venture Highway. Former Vodafone Group CEO Arun Sarin also participated in the round.
Meesho describes itself as the “leading social commerce online marketplace in India”. It enables “independent resellers to build small businesses by connecting them with suppliers to curate a catalogue of goods and services to sell”.
The company also provides logistics and payment tools. These “social sellers” then sell within their social networks on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. Meesho has built a network of two million social sellers across 700 towns in India and created a “disruptive distribution channel” for 15 000 suppliers in traditional manufacturing hubs.
“With a current focus largely on apparel, home, wellness and electronics items, the company has a mission to create 20 million entrepreneurs by 2020,” Naspers said in a statement on Monday.
The latest fundraising round will allow Meesho to “make deeper inroads in areas outside India’s major metro regions, by creating more entrepreneurs, and as a result reaching remote customers not served by traditional e-commerce marketplaces”, it said.
“The latest investment will also strengthen Meesho’s aim to grow its community of women entrepreneurs who have dreamt of running their own businesses but lacked the funds and expertise to do so.”
CEO Vidit Aatrey said the company’s social sellers are small retailers, women, students and retired citizens, with 70% being homemakers who have found financial freedom and a business identity without having to step outside their homes.
Meesho also plans to use the new funds to further build its technology platform to accommodate new product lines, and to evolve its analytics and machine-learning platforms to handle national scale. — © 2019 NewsCentral Media