Jack Ma, the founder and executive chairman of the world’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba, reiterated his interest in India when he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Shanghai on Saturday. Speaking to Modi, Ma said, “We are excited about India. We are excited about Make in India and Digital India.”
Even as Alibaba Group has so far made only one investment in India, Ma and his team are understood to be evaluating several options to participate in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce space. Earlier this year, Alibaba Group entered India’s internet business space by picking up a 25 per cent stake for around $575 million in Paytm owner One97.
According to sources, Alibaba Group has mandated at least three investment banking firms to scout for large and mid-sized Indian companies in which the company could make strategic investments. Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, which worked with Alibaba Group for its $25-billion New York Stock Exchange-listing, are understood to be working with it in India too, sources said. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is also learnt to be working with Alibaba to scout for strategic partners in India.
China’s largest e-commerce company is eyeing a “significant play” in the Indian e-tailing segment and is exploring strategic investments not just in online retail firms here, but also in business-to-business e-tailing, logistics, payments services companies, etc, sources have said.
Sources have also said Ma is exploring a strategic play in one of the largest media houses in the country, but such plans are at an early stage. The Chinese internet major is understood to be in talks with Delhi-based leading online marketplace Snapdeal for a stake buy. While the talks were earlier stalled due to differences over valuation, recent media reports have said the two companies are again in discussions for a strategic partnership.
Additionally, sources have said, Alibaba Group is in talks with Indian mobile devices manufacturer Micromax to buy about 20 per cent stake for around $1.2 billion.
In the final leg of his visit to China, Modi met top businessmen of China and pitched the Make in India initiative to them. Speaking to 22 top Chinese businessmen,
Modi reportedly said, “You are the factory of the world, whereas, we are the back office of the world. You give thrust on production of hardware, while India focuses on software and services.”
Businessmen present at the meeting included Ma, PowerChina chairman Yan Zhiyong, Xiaomi president Lin Bin, Huawei chairman Sun Yafang, Harbin Electric chairman Zou Lei, Shangri-La Asia Limited chairman Kuok Khoon Chen and Sany chairman Liang Wengen, among others.
Modi informed the business tycoons about the steps that his government is taking to make the taxation system in India transparent, stable and predictable. He also spoke about his government's effort to not resort to retrospective taxation.