Could Cloning Groupon Give eBay New Life in Emerging Markets?

As we’ve reported over and over again, there is no shortage of Groupon clones in the world. Given reports of more than 500 such clones in China alone, I’d guess there are thousands of them world-wide. Most of these are small, very local one-off companies. But there’s a new entrant to the global Groupon copy cat fray you may have heard of: eBay.

It seems eBay is offering a group-buying service in India and in the Philippines.

See below:

More than a few Indian readers have emailed to suggest that the move indicates a huge surge in attractiveness of the Indian market, since Groupon itself has recently acquired its way into India. But given the huge number of Groupon subsidiaries and well-funded and ad-hoc clones in most places, I’m not sure that’s the case.

But India is certainly an interesting country for eBay to use as a test case. China will be dominated by a local company and is already far too noisy, to the point where even Groupon has yet to acquire its way onto the mainland. Brazil has been dominated early on by Peixe Urbano, which just got a big slog of cash from Benchmark Capital. And half-a-dozen other large markets have been dominated by Klaus Hommels’ giant Groupon-clone holding company.

India’s sheer size isn’t so much what makes it attractive. After all, a large percentage of people live in villages and the overall Internet penetration is still very low. But it has several huge, densely populated cities filled with young people with lucrative outsourced jobs who love to consume and mostly speak English. A lot of US-Internet clones haven’t worked in India, but this is a country made for Groupon. If eBay succeeds in India and the Philippines, you could see them spreading this to other South East Asian mega cities like Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and even Singapore.

Of course, success depends on eBay figuring out how to manage properties in other countries– something that hasn’t been much of a strong spot in the past. Yahoo — a company that has actually done well in South East Asia— is the has-been Valley giant who could pull this off and build yet another valuable Asian asset (to screw up later on).