In August 2017, business to business (B2B) e-commerce company Just Buy Live (JBL), had big news. The company claimed it had raised $100 million (~Rs 650 crore) from a Dubai-based investor. Employees were thrilled, for the money came with the promise of going international, which meant foreign postings. There had been chatter about this round for six months, and it was finally coming through. It looked like a time to celebrate.

Except, a few weeks in, instead of hiring people, JBL cut the sales team in half. The company went from 30 salespersons to 12 in Delhi. Employees were shocked. You see, the $100 million round had never happened.

And now, the company is on the verge of shutting operations.

Contrast this with Udaan, yet another B2B e-commerce marketplace. The company, started by three ex-Flipkart employees, recently raised $50 million (~Rs 325 crore). Udaan’s flight is fascinating though. It originally started out as an e-commerce company for retailers and is now gradually shifting to being a logistics provider for small businesses. According to people in the industry, Udaan pivoted because it couldn’t get enough traction when it came to B2B e-commerce.

This brings the entire sector back in sharp focus. B2B, in India, is a $300 billion market. It has legacy companies such as IndiaMart and startups alike. All of them have realised that there is an opportunity waiting. Because, in India, no matter who’s buying (be it retail customers or traders) and how much they’re buying (one bag of chips or 200) they want the process to be easy. Now, B2B may not be a topic as hot as Amazon—or regular e-commerce, in general—but it consistently raises funds when needed. Over the last three years, B2B businesses have raised $8.4 billion (~Rs 54,000 crore) according to Tracxn. Remember the funding winter of 2016 and 2017? No, B2B companies didn’t see any of that.

Explore more infographics like this in The Ken -
Visual Stories

But it may be a while before India sees its first B2B e-commerce unicorn. Even though all the dominos are lined up, they don’t seem to be falling the right way.

Just last year, IndiaMart, a Delhi NCR-based B2B directory services company, had to shut down its spin-off, Tolexo. And now, the biggest company in that sector, JBL, is going down the same route. The company was founded in 2015 by Sahil Sani, known for running Sahil Electronics, one of the biggest distributors of the other JBL—JBL sound systems.

Multiple employees at JBL told The Ken that their salaries over the last two months have been delayed and that dues haven’t been cleared for former employees.

AUTHOR

Patanjali Pahwa

Patanjali has spent over seven years in journalism. He last worked at Business Standard as Principal Correspondent, where he wrote on startups, e-commerce companies and venture capital. He has worked at an array of institutions, which include Forbes India, Caravan and Outlook Business. He is a Mumbaikar, born and brought up. Patanjali did his BSc in IT from Mumbai University and then got his journalism degree from IIJNM in Bangalore. He is enamoured by Ernest Hemingway and Tom Waits and may try to sneak in references to them in his stories.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.