With COVID-19 pandemic severely impacting all forms of economic activity, startups aren’t left out. And among startups too, while early-stage and early-revenue ones are surely the worst hit, unicorns aren’t finding it easy either. This situation will almost certainly lead to some level of consolidation among similar companies, and its seems one of them is already on its way.
A report from Economic Times states that Paytm Mall has built a channel with online grocery store Grofers, for considering a deal which might lead to the merger of the two entities.
And once again, it is Softbank which is trying to save face and pushing for the deal. ET sources state that the talks were initiated by Softbank, which is a common investor between the two companies. Softbank is running low on cash, as it reported historical losses in the first quarter of 2020, partly due to failing investments and partly due to the disaster that the Vision fund was. It has been looking to find ways to keep its invested startups afloat, without having to invest any additional capital.
Softbank wants Grofers to be able to access the $170 million cash that Paytm Mall has, so as to deepen its runway. Grofers, a startup that allows people to order grocery items from the internet, and which came up when grocery delivery in India was largely unheard of, has played a crucial role in India’s fight against COVID. Moreover, the startup has witnessed exceptional growth and has been performing very well. That, when it had to do a pilot of sorts with its initial model.
“SoftBank wants Grofers to get their (Paytm Mall) cash or absorb it back into Paytm given new money will be hard to come for the company,” ET said.
However, nothing is set in stone as of yet. If anything, chances are that the deal will fall, as both the companies have declined the possibility of any future merger. Softbank’s failing Vision fund placed large bets on Indian startups, including Paytm Mall, of which it holds 20%, and Grofers, where it is the largest shareholder with a massive 40% stake.
On being contacted, a spokesperson from Paytm Mall declined to comment, states ET. Grofers too, in an email statement, said, “we are not aware of any investments by Paytm Mall. We are an independent business and do not comment on speculation.”
Paytm Mall, flush in cash, is also looking at other potential acquisitions in the essentials space as it looks to cash in on the booming grocery business. The report mentions Paytm Mall holding discussion to invest in or acquire milk delivery startup Milk-Basket as well. Milk-basket has been doing exceptionally well in the current situation but has found it difficult to meet growing demand. Cash from paytm could help its strengthen supply chain and cater to the ever-growing milk demand, even as outside capital becomes increasingly difficult to find.