India's largest consumer e-commerce firm Flipkart Online Services Pvt Ltd, which runs Flipkart.com, has registered two new two companies in India named Flipkart Marketplace Pvt Ltd and Flipkart Payment Gateway Services Pvt Ltd. While Flipkart Payment Gateway Services was approved on August 31, 2012, Flipkart Marketplace was approved just last week, on September 12.
The development was first discussed on a Pluggd.in forum.
If the names are any indication of the things to come, it does look that the company is all set to launch its own online marketplace business. And for those not familiar with the business model, let us tell you an online marketplace basically allows brands and/or retailers (offline) to create their own e-commerce stores using the company's portal, Ã la eBay.
A number of e-commerce companies in India are already offering similar services. Infibeam's 'Build a Bazaar' offering enables its users to build their own branded online stores in minutes (the company claims that over 15,000 stores are already live). Tradus.com has recently announced the launch of seller storefronts that allow wholesalers and distributors from across the country to sell directly to consumers. E-commerce firm Snapdeal has immediately followed by introducing brand stores on its portal (Snapdeal is already a zero-inventory e-commerce model, similar to a marketplace) and ShopClues, too, is a managed marketplace.
We reckon that there are two modes through which Flipkart may operate a marketplace. It can either integrate the marketplace with its existing site (and retain and further build fresh traffic) or open a separate site.
Additionally, as the company seems to be planning to launch an online marketplace, the natural extension is to launch its own payment gateway, which brings us to the second company (Flipkart Payment Gateway Services) registered by Flipkart. The payment services (when/if launched) can be used by both the mother site (Flipkart.com) and the stores residing at its marketplace. But whether the company will also provide those services as a standalone offering (for sites that are not part of its marketplace) is something we will have to wait and see.
As of now, Flipkart has not officially spoken about its plans. But at the time of writing this article, we had contacted Flipkart for details (on the registered companies) and we are awaiting a response on the same. Do keep track of this space for more updates.
Only last month, the company raised an undisclosed amount of funding from existing investors Tiger Global and Accel Partners, as well as from two new investors â€“ MIH (part of Naspers Group) and ICONIQ Capital. The round made Flipkart arguably the most heavily funded e-commerce firm in the country, ahead of names like Snapdeal (raised $53 million in three rounds), Fashionandyou (raised $48 million in two rounds) and Myntra ($39 million). It had earlier raised $31 million from Tiger Global Management and Accel Partners, besides a few angel investors.
(Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal)