Softbank is eyeing a slice of the Indian food delivery market

  • Softbank is said to be in talks to take a stake in Zomato. It commenced similar discussions with Zomato's rival Swiggy last year.
  • India's food delivery market is estimated to be growing at a quarterly rate of 15%.
  • Softbank is expected to make an investment decision by the end of 2018.

In the aftermath of Walmart’s $16 billion acquisition of e-commerce upstart Flipkart, Softbank, a Japanese tech giant and investor, looks set to double down on the Indian market. The Economic Times reported today that Softbank was engaged in initial talks with Zomato, a food delivery service, to take a stake in the company.

In fact, a source told ET that Softbank was scouring the Indian food delivery market for deals, with plans to infuse anywhere between $200 million and $400 million in a worthy candidate. The Japanese company had reportedly commenced talks with Swiggy, another food delivery service, late last year to invest as much as $250 million in the latter’s growth, although nothing seems to have come of it yet.

India’s food delivery market, which is dominated by Zomato and Swiggy, is growing fast. Earlier this year, RedSeer Consulting, a research and consulting firm, estimated that the market grew at a quarterly rate of 15% last year, with daily order volumes more than doubling to 460,000 by September 2017. In April, RedSeer also pegged the size of the market at $740m.

The increasing level of interest in India’s food delivery market is thought to be reminiscent of the investor hype surrounding ride-hailing services a few years ago when Uber entered the country. Interestingly, Softbank has a stake in both Ola and Uber. Both companies have or had their own food delivery services. Ola acquired Foodpanda, a food ordering app, in December last year with plans to invest $200 million in the company. Meanwhile UberEats was launched in May 2017 and is said to be going strong.

Softbank is expected to make an investment decision by the end of 2018. Last month, the company’s CEO, Masayoshi Son, said that Softbank was on track to invest more than its original target of $10 billion in India by 2024. It’s already invested $8 billion since 2014, partly through its Vision Fund for tech investments, making bets on the solar energy, e-commerce and hotel booking markets to name a few. It is currently said to be mulling a $3 billion investment in Paytm Mall, the e-commerce arm of Paytm, in which it already owns a 21% stake, pending a possible exit from Flipkart.

The news of the possible investment in Zomato follows speculation regarding the launch of a second Vision Fund by Softbank. The new fund is expected to also have a $100 billion corpus and could launch as early as 2019.
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