Murthy's Catamaran partners Amazon for SME platform

The venture will provide these companies online tools to help them gain a larger customer base

N R Narayana Murthy

Catamaran Ventures, the venture capital fund owned by Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy (pictured), partnered global e-commerce company Amazon to help India’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs) take their business online and tap the fast-growing online customer base.

Catamaran will own 51 per cent stake in the joint venture, whose legal name is Taurus Business And Trade Services Private Limited. The brand name of the partnership is yet to be decided. The aim of the tie-up is to spread awareness among Indian SMEs and offline sellers about the advantages of going online. The venture will provide these companies online tools to help them gain a larger customer base, said the spokesperson of the new entity in an email statement.

“Catamaran and Amazon Asia formalised a partnership in May,” the statement noted.

“The entity is operational across major cities and towns in India to train SME sellers in online tools and help them gain a larger customer audience for their existing merchandise and develop other offerings that will increase revenues and footfalls for SME retailers in India. The partnership will focus, accelerate and scale the inclusion of SMEs into the digital economy,” it added.

Neither Amazon nor Catamaran Ventures replied to a specific query on the capital infusion towards their equity in the newly-formed joint venture.

“Catamaran is partnering Amazon Asia to offer services that help offline sellers and SMBs in India to get online and to take advantage of the fast-growing online customer base in the country,” Arjun Ramegowda Narayanswamy, head of Catamaran Ventures, said in response to Business Standard’s questionnaire.

Narayanswamy said Catamaran would continue to invest in ideas at various stages of evolution including start-ups, mature companies, and listed companies. The degrees of ownership could vary from taking a small minority to majority control, he added.

This is not the first time any global internet company has launched a programme to train offline businesses and SMEs in India to tap opportunities in the online world. A couple of years ago, search and Internet company Google had launched an initiative called ‘India, get your business online’. The objective was to help SMEs establish their online presence by providing free domain names and tools.

“Catamaran is entering through the back-end alliance with Amazon. From the consumers’ point of view, nothing changes and neither does it affect the competition as it is not a new player,” said Mukesh Bansal, Chief Executive, Myntra and head of fashion at e-tailer Flipkart.

According to various studies, India has about 47 million SMBs. However, only less than five per cent of those have online presence.