When Indiamart recently announced a weekly pay structure for its employees—something it claims is a national first—it set the Twitterverse abuzz. While there was little consensus on whether the move would ultimately be a boon for the B2B e-commerce company’s employees, Indiamart achieved what it set out to do—get noticed.

Standing out in the B2B e-commerce crowd has grown increasingly difficult for Indiamart, the country’s oldest surviving player in the space. Over its 25-year existence, it has grown to connect 7 million suppliers and 143 million buyers across 97000-plus categories. It generated total revenues of Rs 756 crore ($101.4 million) in the year ended March 2021, and controls over 60% of India’s online B2B classifieds space.

But despite its vintage and standing, it’s found itself consistently relegated to the shadows as younger, buzzier startups hog the limelight. Scarcely a week ago, for instance, India birthed its latest B2B e-commerce unicorn when seven-year-old ElasticRun secured a $350 million funding round. This afforded the kirana-focused startup a $1.5 billion valuation. For contrast, a quarter-century and a public listing later, Indiamart’s market capitalisation hovers just under the $2 billion mark.

ElasticRun is merely the latest in a string of startups in the space that have eclipsed Indiamart both in terms of valuation and publicity. Now, after years of staying in its own lane, Indiamart is looking to show both investors and rivals that an old dog can indeed learn new tricks. And it will have to if it is to survive in India’s increasingly cut-throat B2B e-commerce space.

For one, Indiamart’s new wage policy allows it to stand apart from rivals in the hiring game. At a time when tech talent is at a premium, the company wants to grow its tech workforce by nearly a third and rebuild its offline sales network, which was severely affected by the pandemic. 

The company, which also happened to be India’s first B2B e-commerce firm to tap the public markets, raised another Rs 1,070 crore ($143.5 million) via the qualified institutional placements qualified institutional placements Qualified Institutional Placement (QIP) is a method by which listed companies raise capital by issuing equities, or other equity convertible securities to qualified institutional buyers. In a QIP, the company does not dilute its management stake and also does not need to repeat elaborate paperwork like it did during its IPO. (QIP) route in February 2021. This was earmarked for organic and inorganic investments to make overall commerce easy for merchants with software-as-a-service (SaaS), payments, logistics/tracking and transaction financing solutions.

Indiamart has wasted little time in putting this kitty to use. Over the last year, it has invested in eight new companies, including a 26% stake in autonomous procurement platform Aerchain, and a similar stake in EasyEcom, an inventory and warehouse management solution company.

AUTHOR

Aayush Agarwal

Aayush covers businesses that are primarily Internet for The Ken. In his previous stint at Goldman Sachs, he spent slightly more than a year analysing investment opportunities in the China Internet space. A science graduate, he completed his postgraduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode. Write to him if, among other things, you wish to talk about e-businesses, journalism or just offbeat career choices.

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