Author Archives: Aristotle Consultancy

GoJavas considering organisational overhaul involving layoffs, restructured business model

Gojavas_restructure business modelLogistics firm GoJavas, which has suspended operations amid an impasse in its sale talks with Snapdeal, is considering an organisational overhaul involving layoffs and a restructuring of its business model, according to two people aware of the developments.

The GoJavas management is discussing a proposal to switch to a franchisee business model wherein the company will provide its technology to logistics partners that it would onboard, these people said. The move, primarily aimed at trimming the company’s workforce, will impact employees across categories, they said, declining to be identified.

One of them said GoJavas was also planning to adopt a variable salary model based on per packet or kilogram of load handled, on top of a fixed basic pay — similar to how cab aggregators Uber and Ola incentivise their drivers.

Snapdeal, which owns 42% of Go-Javas and accounts for a substantial bulk of its orders, has been holding talks to acquire the remaining stake in the logistics firm.

Clinching GoJavas, which caters to other clients as well, could prove handy for the ecommerce marketplace as the festive season approaches but differences have cropped up primarily over the ask-price.

Last week, GoJavas suspended operations citing unspecified technical reasons and asked clients to make alternative delivery arrangements until it could resume services.

A GoJavas spokeswoman, while refusing to comment on the proposed restructuring or layoffs, said in an email reply to ET that “GoJavas remains open to discussions with all our investors”, indicating the company was continuing its negotiations with Snapdeal. Snapdeal did not comment on the acquisition talks. The GoJavas spokeswoman said the company was yet to decide on when to resume operations.

“The exact time till when the operations will be affected cannot be confirmed as we need to ensure that a thorough testing is done before we resume service to all our clients,” she said.

The suspension of services is likely to affect Snapdeal’s shipments. The marketplace’s logistics unit Vulcan Express handles product shipments from the company’s vendors to its warehouses or delivery centres.

For last-mile reach to customers, Snapdeal has a network of 15 partners including GoJavas. Snapdeal in November invested Rs 36 crore to build its network of fulfillment centres or warehouses under Vulcan Express, according to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies. In GoJavas, Snapdeal’s parent Jasper Infotech has invested Rs 237 crore.

“Snapdeal works with multiple logistics partners for its fulfillment requirements and a large part of our shipments are handled by Vulcan Express, our in-house logistics company,” a spokeswoman for Snapdeal said.

Source – ET Retail

Why Big Bazaar tied up with Paytm

Big Bazaar and Paytm join handsKishore Biyani has been extremely critical of the business model followed by e-commerce companies in the past. The founder and group CEO of one of India’s largest organised retailer Future Group, however, cannot close his eyes to the potential of e-commerce and the ever-growing base of customers shopping online.

With the latest partnership announced with mobile payments and commerce platform Paytm, Biyani is making an effort to go online without taking on the risks and huge costs associated with the e-tail business.

Under the deal announced by the two partners on 4 August, customers will be able to shop for Future Group’s hypermarket chain Big Bazar’s merchandise on Paytm’s marketplace and also, get them delivered to their homes.
Explaining the rationale behind his tie-up with Paytm, Biyani said: “The cost of customer acquisition in the e-commerce space is more than 20%, the cost of fulfilment is more than 20% and the cost of running operations is 8-10%. This totals to almost 50% as the cost of operation. At this cost, you can’t sell any goods on this medium.”

Biyani, indeed, isn’t speaking through is hat. Almost all e-commerce companies, including the market leaders such as Flipkart or Snapdeal and even global companies such as Amazon, have been running massive losses in their operation with no signs of profit in sight yet.

Since, market pundits have been predicting that at some point, online retail transaction will become big enough to command a viable business model with a huge potential for growth, Biyani did make a few attempts at hopping on to the e-commerce bandwagon in the past.

In 2014, for instance, the Future Group had tied up with Amazon India to sell its merchandise, primarily private fashion labels. The same year, it had also launched
shop.bigbazaardirect.com, the online platform for its direct selling offshoot Big Bazar Direct.
Both experiments, however, failed to deliver desired results.

The deal with Paytm

The tie-up with Paytm is Biyani’s yet another attempt at going online. Is he late to the e-commerce party? He doesn’t think so.

“We are not entering late. We were unable to do business online because unit economic wasn’t working,” he told Techcircle, adding: “We didn’t want to spend considerable amount in the acquisition of customers, in fulfilment or administrative obligations.”

Biyani said in Paytm, the Future Group has found a partner that can “bring the unit economics into the business. Besides, we don’t have to worry about payment gateway cost. In that sense, it is a great fix for us.

“Biyani’s optimism may not be misplaced. To begin with, the tie-up with Paytm comes just a few days ahead of Future Group’s hypermarket chain Big Bazar’s yearly flagship sale, Maha Bachat that will run during 13-16 August this year. A hugely popular format, Maha Bachat contributes around 3% to Big Bazar’s annual revenue. With its discounted offers moving online during the four days, Biyani is hoping to reach out to a new set of customers outside of his loyal set.

Big Bazaar’s online avatar

Under the deal, an anchor store has been created for Big Bazaar on the Paytm app. Customers will not only be able to browse and buy Big Bazaar merchandise on offer, they will get a further 15% cash back on all purchases using Paytm’s wallet facility.

Paytm, too, sees the partnership with Future Group as a win-win deal. “Together (with Future Group), we see a fantastic opportunity to create a mobile first, omni-channel retail and payment solution for our wide consumer base,” Vijay Shekhar Sharma, founder and CEO of Paytm, was quoted as saying in a PTI report.

In a chat with Techcircle, Sharma said the partnership is an attempt at bringing a high frequency, large offline platform, online. “They (Future Group) do not have a very active e-commerce strategy as publicly visible. This (the partnership) will allow them to get mobile and internet customers to shop for Big Bazaar merchandise. Everything that is available offline will be available on the anchor app,” he added.

Source – TechCircle

Startup merger and acquisitions surge on funds crunch

Mergers & acquisitionsAs venture funding slows down, startups seem eager to sell themselves off. This is showing up in a surge in mergers & acquisitions (M&As).

In July, there were as many as 36 M&As, almost twice that in June and about three times the January and February numbers, according to data from startup research firm Xeler8. The second quarter of this year saw three big distress sales – FabFurnish, Jabong and Hiree.

Data from Tracxn, another startup research firm, also shows a significant increase from the second half of last year, when funding started slowing down. From 32 M&As in the second half of 2014, the figure went up to 67 in the first half of 2015, to 79 in the second half of last year and was 75 in the first half of this year. The data is collected based on media reports, and announcements in social media, blogs and websites.

“The trend will accelerate in the next six months,” said Mohan Kumar, executive director at venture capital firm Norwest Venture Partners. T C Meenakshisundaram, founder of VC firm IDG Ventures India, said the Uber-Didi merger in China shows the way ahead for Indian startups. “Everybody cannot create billion-dollar companies and sometimes investors don’t see value in a company when there are too many players in the sector. Exit is better than shutting down,” he said.

Another VC investor, who did not wish to be named, said that in most segments market leaders are emerging. “This was expected. Cash is air for startups. When you don’t have money to pay, employees leave and that creates so much negative sentiment in the company that entrepreneurs lose heart,” he said. While Indian startups raised around $3.5 billion in the first half of 2015, the funding dropped to $2 billion in the first half of 2016, says a report by KPMG and startup research firm CB Insights.

Xeler8 finds that the most-funded sectors and the ones that attracted the highest number of entrepreneurs – including local commerce and e-commerce – have seen the biggest consolidation. Delhi-NCR, which is estimated to have the highest number of local commerce and e-commerce startups, saw 29 M&A deals in the first half of this year, followed by Bengaluru at 26 and Mumbai at 16.

The year’s biggest acquisition was by Quikr, which bought online real estate platform CommonFloor for around $100 million, while the asking price was around $160 million. Myntra acquired Jabong for $70 million, though Jabong was once valued at more than $500 million and was demanding a price of over $1 billion for a sale in late 2014. Titan’s recent acquisition of more than 60% stake in Chennai-based Caratlane was below the jewellery e-tailer’s valuation in its last funding round from ll. Hyperlocal delivery startup Roadrunnr acquired food-tech startup TinyOwl in June after the latter found the going tough.

Rishabh Lawania, founder of Xeler8, said this trend will continue because big players are now scouting for companies that complement their offerings or add new segments that could help them with incremental growth.

Source – ET Retail

SEBI mulls easier norms to help startup listing platform take off

SEBI and StartupThe Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has proposed a raft of changes in its institutional trading platform, better known as the startup listing platform, to make it attractive enough for firms to consider going public in India.

In particular, the securities market regulator has proposed to reclassify what it means by ‘institutional investors’ who can access the new trading platform. In the current norms, SEBI has allowed qualified institutional buyers (QIBs).

It has now sought to include family offices, RBI-registered non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), SEBI-registered intermediaries with net worth of over Rs 500 crore, hedge funds under its Alternative Investment Fund (AIF) norms and pooled investment funds with assets under management of more than $150 million (Rs 1,000 crore).

This relaxation also applies to another existing eligibility norm for startups that seek to list on the platform. Existing norms prescribe that at least 25% of the company needs to be owned by an institutional investor before listing if it’s a technology firm. For non-tech startups, this threshold ownership by institutional investors has been pegged at 50%.

The regulator has proposed to discontinue this distinction between tech and non-tech firms and make 25% minimum institutional holding uniform with the expanded list of such investors.

SEBI has also proposed to scrap the rule that no single shareholder shall own more than 25% after listing and gave more room to high net-worth investors (HNIs) and corporate investors to participate in public issues of startups in the new platform.

HNIs and corporate houses are covered under non-institutional investors. Earlier, only a quarter of the IPO of a startup was reserved for them.

In addition, it also plans to allow single investors to pick a larger quantum of shares in the IPO of a startup in the new exchange. A single institutional investor can pick as much as a fourth of the entire issue. Earlier, they were restricted to pick just about a tenth of the issue.

“SEBI’s intent is clear: it wants to make listing easier. At the same time, it is painfully aware that laxity in regulations could encourage market manipulations. These two opposing forces explain SEBI’s actions,” said angel investor Ajeet Khurana. “I regard the new norms as a positive step.”

In another significant move, SEBI has restricted an immediate share sale by venture capital investors as well as employees who converted their stock options into shares after listing. Under the current norms, if the startup is listing via an initial public offering, ESOP-converted shares and equity shares held by VCs are not subject to the uniform six-month lock-in period.

This means that all existing investors of a startup listing on the platform would need to hold on to their shares for at least six months after it goes public.

These apart, SEBI has gone back to its original plan when it had planned to have a minimum trading lot of shares of Rs 5 lakh. Last year, when it came out with the final guidelines, it had doubled this. It has now proposed to bring it back to Rs 5 lakh.

Meanwhile, the market regulator has proposed to make market making compulsory for a minimum period of three years for an issue size of less than Rs 100 crore. The existing platform has no provision for market making.

Despite a lot of talk of making life easier for startups to list in India, the exodus of Indian tech startups continue. Most recently, one of India’s top online travel agencies Yatra.com decided to go for a reverse merger to list on NASDAQ.

SEBI Graph

Well begun but half done

Entrepreneurs, investors and industry executives largely welcomed the move but some of them doubted whether these measures will be enough to encourage startups to list on Indian bourses.

“It is largely in line with what we have been proposing,” said Sanjay Khan, associate at law firm Khaitan & Co. Khan is a member of the ‘List in India’ policy expert team of software product industry group iSPIRT, which has been working with SEBI on the institutional trading platform.

He said startups showed no interest in listing on the new platform for various concerns. “Some of their concerns were common and SEBI has tried to address them through the changes suggested in the discussion paper,” he said.

Vinay Mathews, founder and COO at peer-to-peer lending platform Faircent, said the fresh proposal is attractive for startups and offers easier exit options for investors. “Will there be any takers? Only time will tell, but I think we’ll see a few companies getting listed in next six to nine months,” he said.

Amaresh Ojha, founder of fitness startup Gympik, said that these changes will be favourable for bootstrapped companies going for an IPO. “Flexibility in subscription of shares by individuals, VCs and institutional investors can attract more investors to mature and late-stage startups,” said Ojha.

Apoorv Ranjan Sharma, co-founder of Venture Catalysts, said the move to lower the trading ticket size is positive as more small-time investors will be able to participate, which will eventually drive volumes higher.

Manish Lunia, co-founder of online lending platform FlexiLoans Technologies, welcomed the steps but said these were not enough. Changes in listing norms such as past profit records and alternative mechanisms for expanding the market for startup investments are more important, he said. “These incremental steps that might not be able to stop the exodus of mature startups to list outside India, just like MakeMyTrip did in the past,” Lunia said.

Source – ET Retail

How to wind up your startup without any hassle

business shutdown“Shutting down a company is hundred times more difficult than starting a company,” said an entrepreneur who recently shuttered his startup, requesting anonymity as liquidations proceedings were still ongoing.

Several entrepreneurs echo this sentiment. Winding up a company is not only about laying off employees and closing operations. It involves several other procedures to take the company off official records. One way to shut a company is to show a year’s record of no operations (revenue) and zero assets and liabilities, after which it will be struck off the register of the Registrar of Companies (RoC), said corporate lawyer Vaibhav Parikh, a partner at Nishith Desai Associates.

The other is to take the court route, which is a longer and costlier process that involves meetings with creditors and several court dates. This could take two to five years based on the complications involved.

The government recently brought in schemes to help with the closing of a company — the Bankruptcy law and the notification of the National Company Law Tribunal, which is likely to replace the traditional courts for company insolvency and disputes.

These schemes are timely, given that an increasing number of startups beset primarily by an unexpected capital crunch are winding down this year. According to startup-focused research firm Xeler8, nearly a thousand startups in India have wound up since June 2014.

According to Parikh, startups may not need to use the Bankruptcy law option as many of them do not have debt. “However, they may be able to take benefit of voluntary winding up. The objective is to limit the process to a shorter time frame of up to 90-180 days, but its effectiveness remains to be seen,” Parikh said.

Nasscom president R Chandrashekhar, too, said the Bankruptcy law may not be suitable for most startups. “The new Bankruptcy code, perhaps, is a little more oriented towards traditional business that have huge assets and huge institutional lending and designed from the perspective of lending institutions and to curb crony capitalism,” he said in a recent interaction with ET.

“These are desirable objectives but not necessarily focused on the quick three-month closure we would like in cases where there is no debt.”

Voluntary winding up, which can be done by either members or creditors, is done without court supervision. When the winding up is complete, relevant documents are filed before the court for obtaining an order of dissolution. But while the process may seem straightforward, the reality is often very different.

The entrepreneur quoted above said he was “forced” to adopt the liquidation process.

“It is forced because you don’t have enough money to pay what you owe to your creditors as well as employee salaries and statutory payments. In this route, the creditors file cases against directors (of the company) and you need to personally handle multiple creditors, which could lead to unethical issues such as threats and harassment,” he said.

“It is also a very lonely and stressful process if the investors resign from the board and cofounders who are not on the board leave abruptly, as it happened in our case.”

The bureaucracy and costs involved in closure is a main reason why several companies remain dormant without legally shutting operations. Parikh said nearly 90 per cent of the startups that fail continue to exist on paper despite closing operations. Of the remaining, a majority choose to strike off the company’s name from the RoC’s records.

“If a company remains dormant, it still has to bear costs for maintenance and compliance with annual filings, failing which it could be fined by the registrar,” he said, adding that in case startups don’t want the hassle, they can register as a limited liability partnership (LLP).

Pardeep Goyal, who shuttered his startup SchoolGennie in 2014, advises that bootstrapped companies should avoid the costly procedure of incorporating a private limited company if they can do business as a proprietary or partnership firm.

“I feel there is no need to incorporate private limited unless you have to raise capital from investors or have many stakeholders in the company. We incorporated a private limited company that involved the cost of incorporation and (chartered accountant’s) expenses. It’s costly to incorporate, maintain and wind up a private limited firm,” he said.

“We had not earned much revenue but spent Rs 30,000 on incorporation, Rs 15,000 for annual maintenance to CA and another Rs 10,000 in closure. It was painful to see the balance sheet in loss and still having to pay additional money for closure procedures,” Goyal said, adding he had to wait six months to get the closure status of the company.

Source – ET Retail