Flipkart’s likely PhonePe spinoff a good sign for Indian tech

India’s largest startup is ready to birth its own unicorn. That’d be unusual anywhere, but that it’s happening in India offers some hope for the country’s long-awaited tech renaissance.

This is also great news for Walmart Inc. The U.S. retail behemoth paid $16 billion for 77% of India e-commerce company Flipkart Group in May last year. That deal included payments unit PhonePe — an early pioneer in the digital-wallet business — which Flipkart had acquired two years earlier.

Now Walmart is engineering a spinoff as part of a $1 billion funding round that could value payment unit at up to $10 billion and give the retailer an 82% stake in PhonePe and Flipkart, India’s Economic Times reported. From one $20.8 billion company 18 months ago, India will get two unicorns at a combined value of up to $30 billion.

There are already indications that PhonePe has shed its Flipkart training wheels. From 50% of its transactions three years ago, Flipkart now accounts for just 0.5%, Indian media outlet The Ken reported, citing PhonePe’s head of strategy and planning. During Flipkart’s annual Big Billion Days sale last month, PhonePe’s logo no longer had top billing on the e-commerce website, according to The Ken. Instead it was listed as just one of the many payment options available to online shoppers.

That PhonePe is preparing to fly solo is also a sign of India’s maturing digital sector. Not only is the company willing to directly tackle rivals such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google Pay and Facebook Inc.’s forthcoming WhatsApp payments, but it’s also managing to survive in the scary wilderness beyond the gates of Flipkart. (Survive, of course, is a relative term. It’s likely still burning cash and posting losses, though at least it can keep up with well-funded adversaries, a key measure of success at this point in the game.)

More broadly, the PhonePe spinoff would strengthen the case that a homegrown hero can hold its own when foreign rivals enter. Paytm, another Indian startup, is on the verge of landing a $2 billion round of funding from investors including Ant Financial, SoftBank Group Corp. and Discovery Capital Management which could give it a $16 billion valuation, Bloomberg News reported this week.

Hopefully the momentum at both PhonePe and Paytm will spur more Indian entrepreneurship, feeding a rebirth in India’s tech sector not seen since the IT-outsourcing boom two decades ago. While that gave us Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Wipro Ltd. and dozens more, most of those businesses focused on serving foreign needs.

Now, a crop of stars is emerging to meet the needs of India’s 1.3 billion people. It’s not a big step from this spinoff to an actual IPO, a development that will put India back on the global technology map.

Bloomberg

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.