E-commerce giant Amazon is in talks to back influencer-led commerce platform Trell, its first direct investment in an Indian e-commerce firm, said two people aware of the matter, requesting anonymity.
Amazon may invest $50-80 million as part of a $150 million round Trell is raising, valuing it at about a billion dollars, giving it the coveted unicorn tag - private internet companies valued at over a billion dollars, these people said. Existing investors such as Mirae and fashion retailer H&M will also invest.
Trell started as a community-based social network to discuss and exchange lifestyle trends, and was part of Sequoia India’s accelerator program Surge in late 2019. It later became an influencer-led platform which also built an ecommerce layer on top, entering a hot space with startups such as Bulbul, Simsim and Ekanek.
Founder and CEO Pulkit Agarwal didn’t respond to a mail seeking comment while Amazon declined to comment.
Trell’s monthly active users stand at 68 million, doubling year-on-year, while its commerce platform does 800,000 orders a month, burning about Rs 15 crore a month, a person aware of the matter said. Moneycontrol couldn’t ascertain its revenue immediately.
“It is still an early bet for investors. The valuation is at least a year ahead of its time. But they are tapping into a big market of video commerce and assisted sales. And they have scaled well. But it is nowhere near a successful business yet,” said an investor who evaluated Trell, requesting anonymity.
Trell was valued at $120 million when it raised $45 million in July last year from Mirae, H&M, KTB Network, Samsung Ventures, and Fosun RZ Capital.
The deal will also mark Amazon’s biggest bet on an Indian startup so far, surpassing its investments in insurance startup Acko and lending firm Capital Float.
“If video and influencer-led retail is the next generation of ecommerce, Amazon needs an entry. It is not just a financial investment, but a way to get an insider view on how this space works and its real potential,” a retail analyst said, who did not want to be named since deal talks are private.
Rival Flipkart partnered with ShareChat-owned Moj for live video commerce late last year, upping the stakes for the sector. Accel-backed Simsim, another video commerce retailer, was acquired by YouTube for about $70 million last year.Although video commerce has been seen as India’s next retail frontier, along the lines of China’s Pinduoduo, and Alibaba-owned JD and Taobao, a clear winner who has scaled revenues is yet to emerge. Companies have struggled with high customer acquisition costs and low conversion rates. How much clout individual influencers will hold and any startup’s relationship with them, and whether it is mutually beneficial, remains to be seen.