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Amazon doubles authorised cap, steals march on rivals

06 April 2016

Amazon India has almost doubled its authorized capital to Rs16,000 crore, exceeding its capital commitment of $2 billion made in July 2014 and indicating the company's intent spend whatever is needed to become the country's largest ecommerce firm.

Amazon Seller Services Pvt Ltd (Amazon India) increased its authorized capital from Rs8,500 crore in February, documents with the Registrar of Companies (ROC) accessed by the Mint newspaper show.

The firm's authorized capital was Rs1,500 crore in July 2014, when Inc's chief executive Jeff Bezos promised it will invest as much as $2 billion in India over the next few years, Mint newspaper reported, adding, Amazon didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

Amazon India is stepping up its pace of investment to try and overtake local rivals Flipkart Ltd and Snapdeal (Jasper Infotech Pvt.Ltd), both of which are struggling to raise money.

Last week, India permitted 100-per cent foreign direct investment in online retail of goods and services under the so-called ''marketplace model'', legitimising existing businesses of e-commerce companies such as Amazon and Flipkart (See: Government allows 100% FDI in e-commerce).

It also notified new rules, which could potentially end discount wars between these companies.

Since Bezos committed $2 billion, Amazon Seller Services has already received roughly Rs10,730 crore to splurge on discounts, advertising, hiring and other things, documents with the RoC show. This is apart from the company's cash infusions in its logistics unit Amazon Transportation Services Pvt. Ltd and Cloudtail India Pvt. Ltd, Amazon's joint venture with Catamaran Ventures.

Amazon is desperate to succeed in India, the last big e-commerce market in the world, after losing out in China to Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the report says

India's ecommerce sales could reach $48-60 billion by 2020 from $4.47 billion in 2014, according to a UBS report.

Amazon's massive investments have yielded immediate results. While Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon India haven't officially released their latest sales figures, executives familiar with the matter said the three companies are neck and neck in the race for dominance of India's ecommerce market.

The pace with which Amazon has caught up with Flipkart and Snapdeal, which launched several years before their American rival, has surprised experts and investors. Led by Amazon veteran Amit Agarwal, Amazon India launched only in June 2013 and successfully wooed tens of millions of Indian shoppers with low prices, wide product selection and fast delivery.

Last year, particularly, Amazon gained significant market share at the expense of Flipkart and Snapdeal, according to publicly available data and several company executives.

That Amazon is seriously stepping up its investment pace will worry Flipkart and Snapdeal, which are struggling to raise money at their current valuations of $15 billion and $6.5 billion respectively. Flipkart and Snapdeal have also seen a dip in sales growth over the past six months.

Mint reported on 4 February that Flipkart approached Alibaba for cash, but a proposed deal depends on Flipkart's ability to reduce its valuation expectation. Later in February, one of Flipkart's mutual fund investors, Morgan Stanley, cut the value of its estimated stake in the e-commerce firm by 27 per cent, implying Flipkart is now valued at $11 billion.

Amazon India is also expanding into other businesses even as its rivals are conserving cash for their core business.

In February, Amazon India launched grocery deliveries in Bengaluru through a dedicated app called Amazon Now, promising to deliver soaps, shampoos, fruits and other staples in less than two hours after receiving an order.

In the same month, Flipkart shut its groceries delivery app Nearby after it failed to generate enough interest among shoppers.

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