Chinese search giant Baidu is on the verge of considerably increasing its presence in the Indian market by way of investments into several prominent start-ups, including Zomato, BookMyShow, and BigBasket.
While the company refused to elaborate on the topic, rumours of on-going negotiations between Baidu and the start-ups mentioned above, have now been confirmed.
The move is not surprising considering that India is poised to overtake the US as the largest global internet market by user numbers. However, the choice of companies is certainly suggestive.
Speaking to the TOI, Tim Yang, head of Baidu India said,
India has a large base of internet users and this is moving up rapidly. Baidu sees the country as a strategic market, and we will have a big focus here.
Despite operating in completely different verticals, Zomato(Restaurant search and reservation site), BookMyShow (ticket booking) and BigBasket (Grocery Ordering Service) have one thing in common — All of them operate upon the O2O model — online-to-offline or offline-to-online — and are concerned with directing virtual customers to physical stores and vice-versa.
Again, earmarking O2O companies for its investments is no bolt from the blue on the search giant’s part. Like most Chinese tech companies, Baidu’s focus at present is upon growing its mobile business, making O2O commerce — a significant portion of which takes place via mobile based commerce — an obvious priority.
The company already has a strong foothold in the country, in form of its play-store-alternative Mobo Market and a bunch of popular applications including, the ES file explorer, DU battery saver and DU speed booster. The investments in Zomato, BookMyShow and BigBasket when — and if — actually occur, will allow the company to strengthen its grasp on the market.
Meanwhile, Baidu may be just the first along a whole bunch of Chinese tech giants, such as Tencent, Alibaba, Didi Kuaidi etc, that are already eyeing — and may soon make a beeline for — the rapidly expanding Indian market.