As trial balloon launches go, it should’ve been a perfect launch plan. The location would have brought together a phalanx of powerful policy-makers, business leaders and influencers including the chairman of India’s telecom regulator, its foreign secretary, the ministers of technology and industry for the state of Karnataka and dozens of powerful CEOs, researchers and technologists. A successful launch would have the kind of visibility and impact few could hope for.

No expenses were spared either. Sponsorships were paid for. Panellist slots were obtained.

And then, on 7 December 2016, the balloons were floated.

“What we need to do is what China did 15 years ago and tell the world we need your capital, but we don’t need your companies,” said Sachin Bansal, executive chairman and co-founder of Flipkart, India’s most valuable e-commerce startup and market leader.

He was followed by Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO of Ola, the largest on-demand cab ride provider and market leader, “It’s much easier for non-Indian companies to raise capital because they have profitable markets elsewhere. You might call it capital dumping, predatory pricing or anti-WTO but it’s a very unfair playing field for Indian startups.”

In case the subtext wasn’t clear, the founders of two of India’s best-known unicorns were asking the government for protection from competition through regulation. The event was the Carnegie India Global Technology Summit that was held in Bangalore on 6-7 December 2016.

Three days later came the first flanking argument.

On 11 December, Tarun Davda, a venture capitalist in the firm that has backed Ola (Matrix Partners), wrote a long post where he took great pains to explain that Ola and Flipkart’s foreign competitors were indulging in a “dubious strategy [that is] considered anti-competitive in many jurisdictions and is illegal under competition laws.”

According to Davda, “Simply put, their argument is that global rivals are indulging in an unhealthy market practice known as ‘capital dumping’.”

That was the second instance of the term after Ola’s Aggarwal introduced it at the Carnegie event.

Then, after a slightly longer gap, came the second flanking post. On 30 January, Vani Kola, a VC at Kalaari Capital, who has invested in companies like Snapdeal and Myntra, wrote a post on Medium. In her post, Kola repeated Davda’s argument about capital dumping and said that “[Amazon, Uber and OLX] have access to unlimited finance—from the fact that they have successful business for many years in other geographies—and can use that to stifle competition in India by providing products and services that are economically unviable even to them in the long term (but a loss that they can take on, because of the cushion from their home markets). While it might seem to be a good deal for the customers, it can be a bad deal for the country as a whole.”

Reference number three to ‘capital dumping’.


Sumanth Raghavendra

Sumanth is a serial entrepreneur with more than eighteen years experience in running startups. He is currently the founder of Deck App Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup attempting to re-imagine productivity software for the Post-PC era. Sumanth’s columns appear regularly in leading publications. He holds MBA degrees from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, USA.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

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.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? 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.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

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?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.