Some of India’s top entrepreneurs are pooling their resources to launch a marketplace that connects consumers with physical retailers via their smartphones.
Called Little, the project is founded by Manish Chopra and Satish Mani — the same duo behind male-focused fashion startup Zovi. It’s kicking off with a $50 million funding round led by Indian payment and commerce firm Paytm. SAIF Partners and Tiger Global, two existing Zovi investors, also participated in the fundraising.
The service is an app-only marketplace for iOS, Android and Windows Phone that serves up deals from merchants across a range of verticals, including restaurants, movies, hotels, salons, gyms and spas. Little is live in 11 cities across India with an initial catalog of 5,000 merchants. Chopra told TechCrunch in a phone interview that the ambitious team is aiming to scale to 50,000 concurrent deals, a team of 1,000 (currently 400), and a $170 million run rate by March of next year.
“We want to create a hyperlocal collective of amazing and fantastic deals right around you,” Chopra said. “We really don’t see anyone offering an end-to-end marketplace in India, right now.”
Little will make money by taking a service fee — 6-14 percent of the transaction, depending on each vertical — from merchants. Chopra said that merchants will be able to customize their offers so that deals appeal to different kinds of customers, such as first-timers, existing customers and loyal regulars. That way, he said, merchants can focus on filling unspent inventory in different ways.
“The unused capacity [in many industries] is more than 50 percent. Being able to find customers that can get better services at cheaper prices will allow those merchants to offer their unused capacity and unlock new revenue streams,” he said.
Admitting that Little is inspired by the online-to-offline push that China’s top Internet companies — including Alibaba, an investor in Paytm — are making right now, Chopra said that Zovi will continue unaffected by this new business.
“I have two daughters, I love them equally,” he explained. “Online-to-offline is a fantastic opportunity and, as we continued to grow the Zovi business, we thought there was more we could do.”
In addition to providing a platform to handle payments, Paytm — which counts 80 million monthly users in India — is using Little to power deals on its platform, too. “Paytm also brings great strength in understanding how to grow and build a brand quickly,” Chopra added.
The Little founder declined to discuss future fund raising plans for the new project, saying only that it would “evaluate” opportunities as the business scales. While on the subject of overseas expansions, Chopra added that Little is firmly focused on India for now, but “never say never.”