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India’s Reliance to buy majority stake in Google-backed Fynd for $42.3M

By Manish Singh

Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries is acquiring 87.6% stake in Fynd, a seven-year-old Mumbai-based startup that connects brick and mortar retailers with online stores and consumers, for 2.95 billion Indian rupees ($42.33 million), the two said in a brief statement late Saturday.

Fynd, which was founded in 2012, helps offline retailers sell their products to consumers directly through its online store, and also enables them connect with other “demand channels” such as third-party e-commerce platforms Amazon India and Walmart-owned Flipkart.

More than 600 brands including Nike, Raymond, Global Desi, and Being Human, and 9,000 stores are connected through Fynd’s platform, Harsh Shah, co-founder and CEO of Fynd, told TechCrunch in an interview. Many brands use Fynd’s products to also ramp up sales in their own respective e-commerce businesses.

Since Fynd works directly with brands, it offers a wider selection of items and newer inventories to consumers, as well as faster delivery, Shah claimed.

fynd website 1

Fynd’s website

Reliance Industries, which owns the nation’s biggest physical retail chain Reliance Retail, has been a customer of Fynd for more than six years, Shah said. “Reliance runs a few major brands in the country. 25 of our existing brands are owned by them. Our Find Store product has helped their stores plug a lot of sales,” he said.

Fynd, which counts Google as one of its early investors, will continue to operate its existing business and has an option to secure an additional 1 billion India rupees ($14 million) by end of 2021 from Reliance Industries, Shah said. He declined to reveal how much capital his startup had raised prior to this week’s announcement. According to Crunchbase, Fynd has raised about $7.3 million.

“Reliance is taking the majority stake in Fynd, but at the end of the day, for us it is like any other investor coming in. We will still continue to work separately, we have our own independent roadmap, and we have own clients and products that we plan to grow. So things continue as it is,” he said.

Fynd, which takes a small commission on each transaction that occurs online, is already profitable on an operating level and expects to be fully profitable in the coming quarters, Shah said.

It will continue to build and scale its existing products, including OpenAPI that allows merchants to quickly list their products on either their own stores or third-party sites and manage their inventories and sales.

Despite tens of billions of dollars of investment in India’s e-commerce market in recent years by Amazon India and Flipkart, physical retail dominates the sales in the country. But e-commerce businesses in India are growing, too.

The nation’s e-commerce space is estimated to scale to $84 billion by 2021, up from $24 billion in 2017; compared to India’s overall retail market that is estimated to be worth $1.2 trillion by 2021, according to a recent study by Deloitte India and Retail Association of India.

Reliance Industries, run by Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani (pictured above), additionally has its own plan to enter the e-commerce business. Earlier this year, Ambani announced that his telecom operator Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail are working on an e-commerce platform.

Reliance Jio, which began its commercial operations in the second half of 2016, recently became the nation’s biggest telecom operator with more than 331 million subscribers at the end of June.

India has labeled hyperloop a public infrastructure project — here’s why that matters

By Kirsten Korosec

Hyperloop, the futuristic and still theoretical transportation system that could someday propel people and packages at speeds of more than 600 miles per hour, has been designated a “public infrastructure project” by India lawmakers in the state of Maharashtra.

Wrapped in that government jargon is a valuable and notable outcome. The upshot: hyperloop is being treated like any other public infrastructure project such as bridges, roads and railways. In other words, hyperloop has been plucked out of niche, futuristic obscurity and given a government stamp of approval.

That’s remarkable, considering that the idea for hyperloop was first proposed by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a nearly 60-page public white paper just five years ago.

It also kicks off a process that could bring hyperloop to a 93-mile stretch of India between the cities of Mumbai and Pune. The Pune Metropolitan Regional Development Authority will begin the procurement process in mid-August when it starts accepting proposals from companies hoping to land the hyperloop contract.

The frontrunner is likely Virgin Hyperloop One -DP World, a consortium between the hyperloop company and its biggest backer that pitched the original project to India. The MahaIDEA Committee earlier approved Virgin Hyperloop One-DP World Consortium as the Original Project Proponent.

Under the VHO-DPW proposal, a hyperloop capable of transporting 200 million people every year would be built between Pune and Mumbai. That stretch of road now takes more than three hours by car; VHO says its hyperloop would reduce it to a 35-minute trip.

“This is history in the making. The race is on to host the first hyperloop transportation system in the world, and today’s announcement puts India firmly in the lead. This is a significant milestone and the first of many important steps toward bringing hyperloop to the masses,” Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder said in a statement Wednesday.

The hope is that India’s government will award the contract by the end of 2019, a VHO executive told TechCrunch. If that occurs, Phase 1 of the project — an 11.8 kilometer (or 7.3 mile) section — would begin in 2020.

The cost of building Phase 1 will be covered by DP World, which has committed $500 million to this section. The government is covering the cost and logistics of acquiring the land for the hyperloop.

Phase 1 will initially act as a certification track, which will be used to certify the hyperloop technology for passenger operations. VHO wants this certification track built and operating by 2024. If this section meets safety standards it will become part of the larger hyperloop line between Pune and Mumbai.

There is a lot of work to do, and technical milestones to meet, before hyperloop is whisking people in pods through a tunnel. But if it works and is built, the region’s economy could be transformed, supporters insist.

Once commercialized, the hyperloop will transform the Pune-Mumbai corridor into a mega-economic region, according to Harj Dhaliwal, managing director of India and Middle East at Virgin Hyperloop One.

Today, some 75 million people travel between Pune and Mumbai each year, and forecasts suggest that number could rise to 130 million annually by 2026. The VHO-DPW consortium says its hyperloop will have the capacity to handle 16,000 passengers day, or about 200 million people annually.

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