Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani invests in e-commerce startup 10i Commerce Services
Infosys co founder Nandan Nilekani has put his weight behind an ecommerce startup for the first time, backing a venture that seeks to help small traditional shops fight online and organised retailers with the use of technology.
After operating quietly for over a year, Bengaluru-based 10i Commerce Services is aiming to expand quickly across hundreds of towns and cities in India and empower traditional small retail stores with its technology platform Shop X, at a time when they are facing disruption from new-age ecommerce firms.
It has so far raised Rs 25-30 crore from Nilekani, who as of now is the sole investor in the startup with a minority stake, according to a source close to the company and documents filed with the Registrar of Companies. Nilekani and 10i Co founder Amit Sharma refused to comment on funding but confirmed their association.
This is Nilekani’s largest investment in a startup since he parked close to $7.5 million in Sedemac, which builds controls for small engines and power trains.
“Technology was always a passion. I always wanted to use technology to solve problems for India at a large scale. The ambition was always to reach the masses. Always wanted to do something that reaches hundreds of millions of people, not the elite few people who stay in large cities, who have access to a lot more,” said Sharma, who started the venture in early 2015 with Co founder Apoorva Jois.
As it aims to scale up, 10i is looking to bring in investors other than Nilekani. Its directors include Aadhaar project architect Pramod Verma and former L’Oreal executive Jagdish Kini.
“I was reluctant to get involved at first, but they kept cajoling me. And, as I looked deeper at what they were trying, I thought it was extremely interesting,” said Nilekani in an interview, confirming that 10i was the “stealth-mode” startup that he has been helping over the course of the past year. “To me, a big part of what’s going to happen in the next 10 years is the formalisation of the economy where the entire informal sector, be it small businesses or individuals who are out of the system, will become part of the system,” he added.
The investment in 10i is Nilekani’s 12th in a startup and is keeping in line with his investment philosophy which prefers big, transformative ideas that can solve problems atypical to India. Among the companies he has backed are Team Indus, which is aiming to land a rover on the moon; robotics firm Systemantics; trucking and logistics startup 4 Tigo; crowdfunding platform Lets-Venture and Sedemac.
“What 10i is trying to do with Shop X is provide the traditional, small retailer the same level of technology, logistics, sophistication and supply which ecommerce or organised retail gives. So, that’s what attracted me to it — using technology you can aggregate hundreds of thousands of small retailers and give them access to the best products, give them access to the best technology and so on,” said Nilekani.
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