SoftBank in talks to back India’s ElasticRun

SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and Goldman Sachs are in talks to back Indian commerce startup ElasticRun, according to four people familiar with the matter. The proposed Series E financing round, at about $200 million, values ElasticRun at over $1 billion, the sources said, requesting anonymity, as the deliberations are ongoing and private.

The Pune-headquartered ElasticRun is helping hundreds of thousands of neighborhood stores across hundreds of Indian cities and towns secure inventory from top brands and working capital. It collaborates with e-commerce firms and other big brands to help these stores boost their revenues. The e-commerce firms and brands, in turn, gain access to a large market that has historically proven difficult to penetrate.

The five-year-old startup, which counts Prosus Ventures and Avataar Ventures among its existing backers, has raised $130.5 million prior to the new round.

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Sandeep Deshmukh, co-founder and CEO of ElasticRun, talks about the startup at a business conference in 2019. Image Credits: ElasticRun

ElasticRun has developed a crowdsourced, asset-light logistics network of partners who deliver the services to the neighborhood stores (popularly known as kiranas).

Some of the major firms that work with ElasticRun to tap this network include Amazon, Tata Consumer Products, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail chain.

ElasticRun and SoftBank did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On many fronts, ElasticRun competes with the Bengaluru-headquartered e-commerce startup Udaan, which on Wednesday, disclosed a $250 million investment.

If the proposed talks materialize into a deal — at the terms described in this report — ElasticRun will be the latest startup to join the coveted unicorn club.

A handful of investors, including SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Tiger Global, Alpha Wave Global and Sequoia Capital, have become unusually aggressive in recent quarters and have often fiercely competed to win deals with local young firms. Indian startups raised a record $39 billion in 2021, a year that helped mint 44 local unicorns. SoftBank alone invested over $3 billion in the South Asian market last year.