SoftBank looks to boost investments in Snapdeal, Ola: report

Japanese telecommunications and internet major SoftBank Corp is aggressively backing e-commerce firm Snapdeal and ridehailing app Ola, two of its biggest portfolio companies in India, as the two fight it out in the market with global giants Amazon and Uber, for a larger share in the world's fastest growing major economy, a report in The Economic Times stated.

SoftBank is already the biggest investor in Indian consumer internet space and has invested over $2 billion in the last two years and is looking for consolidation of its Indian investments. At the same time, it is also on the hunt for emerging "disruptive" concepts in the financial services and healthcare space, the report quoting vice president of SoftBank Group International Alok Sama said.

"In terms of plans, our priority is to nurture our portfolio companies," the report quoted Sama  as saying in an interview with ET.

Sama along with SoftBank's board member Ron Fisher, who were appointed in place of another Indian Nikesh Arora who exited Softbank in June this year , now handles Arora's overseas investment duties.

''We are very focused on consolidating our position in ecommerce and ride hailing,'' said the former Morgan Stanle banker, adding that SoftBank is on track to deploy $10 billion in India - a figure announced by Son - over the next decade,'' Sama was  quoted as saying.

For SoftBank, which has pumped in $1.3 billion of its $2 billion India portfolio into Snapdeal and Ola alone, the success of these investments are critical to its future in India.

When SoftBank invested in Snapdeal, it was the second-largest online marketplace behind Flipkart and was gunning for the top position. But, with Amazon muzzling in with huge investment, Snapdeal has been relegated to third position, behind Amazon and Flipkart.

Ola too is struggling to take on Uber, while both Snapdeal and Ola are currently in the midst of new funding rounds.

Sama said Snapdeal was focused on improved unit economics, and the company has shown organic growth in gross sales. He said that SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son ''is directly focused on the situation'' with Snapdeal, and there are ''number of initiatives'' in the works to make sure it is ''well financed''.

SoftBank is also a key backer of Asian companies competing with Uber, which includes China's Didi Chuxing, Southeast Asia's GrabTaxi and India's Ola.

Didi, the largest player in this troika of anti-Uber alliance, acquired Uber's China business earlier this year and formed an alliance with a 20 per cent stake for Uber.

Sama does not rule out a future consolidation between Uber and Ola, as the former looks to go past the Indian market leader Ola after freeing up war chest from China. ''Is consolidation a possibility? Perhaps. But it will be interesting to see how it plays out. But we are absolutely comfortable backing Ola going head to head against Uber in India,'' he said.

Soft-Bank's investments in India includes a joint venture for solar energy projects with Sunil Mittal's Bharti Enterprises and Bharti SoftBank, which owns messaging application Hike, the latter being the brainchild of Bharti scion Kavin Mittal.