Chinese ecommerce leader Alibaba has reportedly held talks with a number of start-ups across categories in India in the past few months in an attempt to pinpoint allies before making a big bang entry into India in the coming months.
However, its main partner would likely be its biggest investment in the country, Vijay Shekhar Sharma-led Paytm, according to a Business Standard report.
The report cites people in the know to say that Alibaba has discussed possible alliances with several online marketplaces, including Snapdeal and Shopclues. It has held talks with a few business-to-business players, logistics companies as well as start-ups in the technology space.
"Talks are being held with everyone. We also had initial talks with Alibaba but it is all at a nascent stage. When Alibaba does come to India, it will need local players for rapid expansion," said a top official of a company with which Alibaba had talks.
Further, like Alibaba, Chinese internet major Baidu has also had talks with a number of players, including Zomato and Shopclues. However, nothing significant has fructified as of now.
For Alibaba, India is a focus market and it plans to take on Amazon – which, whenever it enters, would be its biggest competition – in a big way.
During a recent earnings call for its June quarter results, Alibaba gave an official indication of its Indian plan, mentioning its investments in Paytm.
Alibaba believes mobile and payments would be important strategic assets for it in India.
According to a transcript of the earnings call, available on the seekingalpha.com portal, Alibaba's executive vice-chairman Joseph C Tsai said, "The other emerging market is in India, where we have decided to play some very strategically located assets in that market. We invested jointly with Ant Financial into a company called Paytm, largest mobile wallet company in India. We think mobiles and payment are going to be important strategic assets for us in that market.''
The Alibaba Group is the largest shareholder of One97 Communications, with investments amounting to $680 million. One97 owns and operates Paytm.