Alibaba Group, the Chinese conglomerate, plans to launch its first e-commerce business in India this fiscal year through the ultra-popular UCWeb browser app, one of its subsidiaries. The big giant will include a movie ticketing service which would prove to be a competition for premium services like BookMyShow and Paytm.
The UCWeb Global Business VP, Huaiyuan Yang, said that the firm’s entry into the e-commerce space would not have an adverse impact on the portfolio company, Paytm. Alibaba owns a 30.15% and 3% stake in the homegrown companies, Paytm and Snapdeal, respectively.
“We have Alibaba’s e-commerce gene in us. We are actually trying to start an innovative business model related to e-commerce. We are going to launch a new e-commerce product in India this year,” Yang added.
Alibaba is set to choose a segment according to their business and will partner with the right players in the Indian marketplace. The move on behalf of the Chinese big shot serves as the second signal of their losing faith in the Paytm Mall. Earlier this year, Alibaba did not participate in the funding round solely executed by eBay.
Alibaba playing their cards right with UCWeb?
UCWeb browser has been available in India since 2009. It claims to have over 1.1 billion downloads, excluding China, and 130 million active users in the country. Its wide userbase would serve as a kick start for the e-commerce service. Besides being a browser, Its also a news and content discovery platform and the online platform would presumably fit into this discovery channel. Though a difficult task, it aims at converting this massive traffic into transactions.
“E-commerce is a very vast business. There are various aspects to e-commerce business and several products. UC will choose sections according to our business. We will partner with the right players, and we will not compete with them (Paytm).” – Huaiyuan Yang
The company reportedly invested $100million in VMate, a short video sharing app launched by UCWeb. The investment came as an effort for the Group to venture into the lucrative Indian social video app space. The company owns stakes in Zomato, Xpressbees, BigBasket, and Spapdeal. However, it has not commented on the impact of its ecommerce business on these ventures- or whether cross-selling would be involved.
The development occurs after Alibaba’s decision to pause all new investments in India to rethink its business strategy in India, the previous month. The company had reportedly been unable to find any opportunity within its areas of focus that would interest it in investing further. It will be exciting to watch out for its solo ride in the massive India marketplace.