The last weekend of September saw Bangalore’s Shangri-La hotel swarming with Chinese investors, entrepreneurs and translators. Over a two-day event, the visitors absorbed talks on India’s macroeconomics, financial regulations, savings and lending markets and dozens of demos by eager fintech startups looking to land some investors.
The Chinese investors – about 18 of who had come to India including Baidu, Fenghou Capital and CITIC International – said they wanted to partner with Indian venture capitalists to find the next big idea. Preferably in fintech. Said one investor: “We anticipate a fintech boom in India too and we don’t want to miss that when it happens.”
And as for their choice of hotel, well, it was apparently chosen because it had the best Chinese food.
If you thought Chinese investors and Internet giants are finally beginning to turn their attention to India, you would only be a couple of years late. The event may have been recent, but over the last 36 months, a number of Chinese mobile internet companies – both startups and tech giants – have already been making aggressive inroads into India.
Alibaba Group is here, not just through its high-profile investments in Paytm and Snapdeal, but through browser UCWeb, part of its media and entertainment vertical. Tencent, the fourth largest company in the world, has a presence in India with its instant messaging product WeChat, and recent investments in Hike, its Indian messaging counterpart and in six-year-old healthcare tech startup Practo. Baidu, regarded as the sixth largest company in the world, established itself in India last year, primarily through products and is actively exploring investments in established Indian startups. Other mobile internet startups like Cheetah Mobile, the third-biggest app publisher globally after Facebook and Google, have set their sights on India. Even Meitu, a popular Chinese photo retouching app, currently valued at $4.7 billion after its listing at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, has set up an office in New Delhi, keen to cash in on the ever-growing selfie craze among Indian users.
And then, there’s the curious case of APUS Group. In December last year, the Beijing-headquartered mobile app had decided that India will be its big play. The company had just announced an ‘APUS Fund’ worth $45 million (Rs 300 crore), which it would use to invest in “mobile internet innovation projects” in India. Last month, APUS made another announcement – that it was investing another $44 million in India, an amount it would deploy by the end of 2017 to set up a research and development center, a sales and business office in Gurugram and a startup incubator.