The two largest e-commerce companies in the world, Amazon and China’s Alibaba Group, are set for an epic showdown over market share in India, soon to be the most populous country in the world.
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The two digital titans, with a combined market capitalization north of $1.1 trillion, have avoided direct competition since launching in the late 1990s. Amazon dominates North America and Europe, and Alibaba has a strong grip on China and Southeast Asia.
Earlier this month, Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba, said he believes “that globalization is the future” and plans to continue investing heavily in both India and Australia, which is something Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been doing since 2014.
One of the biggest reasons Bezos is so determined to win India, a market of 1.3 billion people (mostly millennials), is because its online retail market there is expected to grow to $200 billion in 2026, from $15 billion in 2016, according to research from Morgan Stanley. Bezos has already poured more than $5.5 billion into the country over the years, which Alibaba later followed with several of their own investments.
And, while both companies have similarities, their business strategies differ: Amazon likes to acquire companies; Alibaba prefers to invest in them.
According to CB Insights, Alibaba has taken a minority stake in twice as many companies as Amazon outside the U.S. and China, while Amazon has acquired far more companies in outside markets than Alibaba. Additionally, Amazon is pouring billions into its branded marketplace and investing in other supplementary businesses in India, while Alibaba has made heavy strategic investments in payment services and existing e-commerce businesses in the country.
But the big question for many is who really has the wherewithal to win?
Here’s a look at where both companies stand, according to CB Insights.
- To date, Amazon has set up 56 fulfillment centers in India across 13 different states, occupying 13.5 million cubic feet of warehouse space.
- Amazon Marketplace revenue in India grew by 105% for the year ending March 31, 2017.
- Analyzing Amazon’s quarterly earnings, it is clear that India is a top priority, as the country was mentioned 59 times from 2015 – 2017.
- Despite entering the market one year later than Netflix, Amazon Prime Video already has more subscribers than the streaming service.
- Amazon Now, Amazon’s grocery and produce business, operates in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, and Hyderabad.
- Two months after Amazon made its first investment in India, Alibaba quickly followed.
- In January 2015, Alibaba and subsidiary Ant Financial invested $200 million into One97 Paytm, which is India’s largest mobile payments company with more than 200 million users. A few months later, the companies invested another $680 million into the startup, which brought the total ownership to 40%. Later, Alibaba invested in Paytm Mall’s Series A, which is the online retail branch of the Paytm Group.
- Alibaba has also invested in Snapdeal, which is the third most popular e-commerce retailer in India by app downloads.
- In 2018, Alibaba and Ant Financial invested another $35 million into Xpressbees, an e-commerce logistics firm, and an undisclosed amount into online grocery store BigBasket’s Series E. Additionally, in February, Ant Financial acquired 18% of Zomato, an online food and lifestyle portal, for $200 million.