WORDS OF CAUTION

90% of the country’s startups are nonsense, says one of India’s largest retailers

Quartz india
Quartz india

One of India’s largest retailer has called the country’s startup ecosystem “nonsense.”

“Ninety percent of startups (in India) have no meaning at all, they are nonsense,” Kishore Biyani, promoter of Future Group, said at a conference in New Delhi on Sep. 07. “They (entrepreneurs) are just building start-ups to sell them, that is the long term goal. This is what needs to change,” Biyani, whose group owns retail chains such as BigBazaar and Easy Day, said.

The 56-year-old retailer has often been critical of the business models of e-commerce companies. And this isn’t the first time Biyani has taken to public fora to criticise India’s $60-billion e-commerce market.

The feud between e-commerce startups and traditional retailers such as Biyani has been on for years. Offline retailers believe companies such as Flipkart and Snapdeal use steep discounting to lure customers.

“The current business model of e-tailers, with its high costs, is not sustainable and in the next six months the sector will be in the news for closures of some of these loss-making companies,Biyani said at a conference earlier this year.

It isn’t Biyani alone who has been critical of startups.

Earlier this year, Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan estimated that 70% of the players in the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem will fail. “About 20% will survive but will not grow. They will remain small enterprises, and maybe only 5 to 10% will become large and scale up—that is the statistics globally,” he said.

India’s former central banker, Raghuram Rajan, too, had commented on the viability of the startup ecosystem. “If the only reason you are getting revenues, not profit, is because you are selling based on 50% discount, it can’t be viable in the long run,” the Press Trust of India reported Rajan as saying in April this year.

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