Entrepreneur

Long before Mukesh Ambani set his eyes on the millions of mom-n-pop stores, a bunch of e-commerce startups were preparing the ground ⁠— they are now getting their due


  • These ecommerce startups have raised over $135 million since August 2021.
  • Khatabook alone has raised $100 million in the last one month.
  • India is home to 60 million small and medium businesses (SMBs).

It was the year 2019, when India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani declared that he would connect 13 million kirana stores —the Indian word for mom and pop stores — with his tech platform JioPlatforms. Amazon and Flipkart have been on hot pursuit of these neighbourhood stores for at least half a decade.

However, for quite some time before that, a bunch of young entrepreneurs like Dukaan and Khatabook have been preparing the ground for these big tech giants to make a big splash. These enablers are getting their due from venture capitalists (VCs) now.

These ecommerce startups have raised over $135 million since August 2021. Key deals include:

Company Launched In What does it do? Recent Funding Investors Merchants
Khatabook 2017 Originally a bookkeeping app. Ventured into the ecommerce enablement space in 2020 with MyStore. $100 million Tribe Capital, Moore Strategic Ventures (MSV), Alkeon Capital 10 million monthly active users
Dukaan 2020` Enables kirana stores to set up their online store $11 million 640 Oxford Ventures, OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal and Nothing CEO Carl Pei 3.5 million
Bikayi 2019 Helps small businesses set up a digital store $10.8 million Sequoia Capital India 4 million
Ping 2020 Aggregates all the local commerce message groups on the app and allows customers to discover new stores. $3.5 million Elevation Capital, 400 active residential communities
ApnaKlub 2020 Wholesale platform for small sellers and retailers $3.5 million Sequoia Capital India’s accelerator programme Surge. 5,000 wholesale partners
Kirana247 2020 Wholesale distributor of consumer goods for small businesses. It optimises warehousing using ML and AI. $1 million Undisclosed 5000
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Other major businesses in this segment include OkShop and MyStore.

“The recent rounds in September are indicative of growing interest from investors in this segment,” Madhur Singhal, managing partner and chief executive at Praxis Global Alliance told Business Insider. He noted that Google and PayU’s investment in online-to-offline commerce platform DotPe further substantiate this claim.

Devendra Agrawal, founder of investment bank Dexter Capital echoed the same sentiment, highlighting that while offline retailers have been severely impacted by the pandemic, online retail received a huge boost. “To compete with online retailers, offline retailers have started adopting solutions offered by ‘Dukan Tech’ startups at an unprecedented rate,” he said.

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India is home to 60 million SMEs and 13-14 million kirana stores, which employ over 130 million people. “Clearly, it is an extremely vast market and provides great opportunities for digital solutions,” he added.

But what are the challenges ahead of these companies?

According to Singhal, finding the right product market fit for these startups is going to be extremely challenging for these startups as they have a diverse mix of customers in terms of region, scale and vertical of operations.

“Another challenge would be the monetisation aspect. Given the free adoption and availability of Dukan Tech solutions, it would be crucial for these start-ups to figure out what percentage of their merchant base become paid users,” Agrawal added.

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Sequoia-backed Khatabook is facing similar challenges when it comes to monetisation. The company, valued at $600 million due to its size and scale, is currently in a pre-revenue stage. The company is currently piloting some monetisation engine, according to sources within the company.

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