Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani backs 10i Commerce Service, a venture that aims to help small traditional shops give a tough fight to online and organised retailers with the use of technology. This is the first time that Nilekani has backed an e-commerce startup and the 12th time he invested in a statrtup.
After being in stealth mode for an year, Bengaluru-based 10i Commerce Services plans to expand quickly across hundreds of towns and cities in the country and empower traditional small retail stores with its technology platform ShopX. Sources say that the venture has raised Rs 25-30 crore from Nilekani, who currently happens to be the sole investor in the startup with a minority stake. As it aims to scale up, 10i plans to bring in investors other than Nilekani. Its directors include Aadhaar project architect Pramod Varma and former L’Oreal executive Jagdish Kini.
Amit Sharma, who started the venture in early 2015 with Cofounder Apoorva Jois, says:
“Technology was always a passion. I always wanted to use technology to solve problems for India at a large scale. The ambition was always to reach the masses. Always wanted to do something that reaches hundreds of millions of people, not the elite few people who stay in large cities, who have access to a lot more,”
Nilekani said in an interview:
“I was reluctant to get involved at first, but they kept cajoling me. And, as I looked deeper at what they were trying, I thought it was extremely interesting,…To me, a big part of what’s going to happen in the next 10 years is the formalization of the economy where the entire informal sector, be it small businesses or individuals who are out of the system, will become part of the system,”.
Nilekani’s investment philosophy prefers big, transformative ideas that can solve problems typical to India. Among the companies he has backed are Team Indus, which is aiming to land a rover on the moon; robotics firm Systemantics; trucking and logistics startup 4Tigo; crowdfunding platform Lets-Venture and Sedemac. Nilekani adds:
“What 10i is trying to do with ShopX is provide the traditional, small retailer the same level of technology, logistics, sophistication and supply which ecommerce or organised retail gives. So, that’s what attracted me to it — using technology you can aggregate hundreds of thousands of small retailers and give them access to the best products, give them access to the best technology and so on,”