The news appeared on 22 August 2017, the day before, buried in the inner pages of various newspapers and websites. The three founders of Unicommerce had quit Snapdeal. But even then, their press statement was interesting for this snippet, “As part of the sale transaction in April 2015, it was mutually agreed that we would continue to work at Unicommerce for another two years and steer the company to further growth.”
Because Unicommerce was unlike any company Snapdeal had bought.
Snapdeal acquired Unicommerce in the year 2015, at least on paper. Snapdeal’s founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal, and VC investor Nexus were sitting on both sides of the table—they were both buyer and seller. So, did this deal, in the way it was carried out raise issues of corporate governance at the company? People at Snapdeal who have looked at this transaction closely believe that the Snapdeal’s board of directors signed off on it. That sanctimonious blessing makes the transaction right.
What’s right is a matter of opinion. What actually happened is this story. So, let’s dive right in. To Day Zero.
“All said and done, Unicommerce was a really good company”
Unicommerce was founded in 2012. By three co-founders. Ankit Pruthi, Karun Singla and Vibhu Garg. All batchmates from IIT Delhi. In his earlier assignment, Singla had worked at Snapdeal and understood the e-commerce business well. It was there that the idea of Unicommerce first came about. How about a company that can provide software to sellers on an e-commerce platform. This software can be integrated into the backend of the seller and the e-commerce company, so they can talk to each other.
Unicommerce called it Uniware, a web based real time software. So, order in. Order out. Payment in. Inventory check. Processing returns. You know, mundane, but important stuff, which is needed to build an e-commerce company. To put it simply, imagine being a seller, selling on several platforms like Jabong, Myntra, Snapdeal and having to deal with different software for each company. Unicommerce put it all together.
Thanks to Singla’s stint at Snapdeal, enter into the picture, Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal. If you aren’t familiar, both are co-founders of Snapdeal. Messrs Bahl and Bansal entered Unicommerce as angel investors. On 29 February 2012, Unicommerce E-solutions Private Limited issued Rs 10 equity shares to them. The share was issued at a premium of Rs 990 per share and Bahl and Bansal invested Rs 9,90,000 each into the company.
The world of venture capital in India is fascinating in the way it works. It will be fair to say that it works a lot, maybe too much of it, on signalling. So if X is investing monies in company A, Y thinks…hmmm…we shouldn’t miss out on that, I’m sure X must have seen something of value and only then invested in the company.