Picture: SUPPLIED
Picture: SUPPLIED

Naspers has announced the closing of a $125m fundraising for investment in Indian online marketplace Meesho. 

Founded by Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal in 2015, Meesho is India’s largest social commerce platform that allows “social sellers” the ability sell within their social networks on WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram. The company also provides logistics and payment tools on the platform.

We were attracted to Meesho because the team have built a uniquely Indian solution that utilises the reach and scale the internet enables, and harnesses and makes it available for small sellers to better serve customers no matter where they live,” Ashutosh Sharma, head of India investments at Naspers Ventures.

Africa's largest listed company participated in the funding round with Facebook, together with existing investors SAIF, Sequoia, Shunwei Capital, RPS and Venture Highway. Former Vodafone Group CEO Sir Arun Sarin also participated in the round.

The platform has a network of more than two-million social sellers across 700 towns in India and a distribution channel for 15,000 suppliers in traditional manufacturing hubs in the country. 

Our social sellers are small retailers, women, students and retired citizens, with 70% being homemakers who have found financial freedom and a business identity without having to step outside their homes,” said Vidit Aatrey, Meesho co-founder and CEO.

The company says the new funds will be used to further its mission to create 20-million entrepreneurs by 2020.

Operationally, the funding builds and strengthens its network in areas outside India’s major metro regions, which are not serviced by traditional e-commerce marketplaces, with the aim of reaching remote customers. 

It also plans to use the new funds to strengthen its technology platform to accommodate new product lines, and further build its analytics and machine learning capability. 

“The exciting growth of e-commerce in India has hidden the fact that over 90% of Indians either can’t or won’t use it in its current form. They want online shopping that enables them to buy from small businesses they trust,” said Aatrey.

“We believe it is the future of online shopping for the next 500-million consumers,” he said. 

This investment signals Naspers's continued expansion and investment activities outside of its home market in SA. 

In July, Naspers said it would invest $30m (R462m) in Brainly, a Polish peer-to-peer learning community for students, parents and teachers. Earlier that month, the company expanded its presence in Asia.

Its payments and fintech business, PayU, said it had acquired a majority stake in Red Dot Payment (RDP), a Southeast Asia-focused online payments business. The deal valued RDP at $65m.

gavazam@businesslive.co.za