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BUYING SPREE

Ratan Tata now has a finger in every slice of India’s e-commerce pie

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Reuters/Vijay Mathur
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Ratan Tata, the 76-year-old former chairman of the salt-to-software conglomerate, Tata Group, has picked up a stake in Xiaomi.

The investment in the Chinese phone maker, in his personal capacity, is his ninth since March last year.

And with this stake, Tata now has interests in almost all sections of online services—payments, automobiles, furniture, jewellery, apparel, and mobile phones.

On April 26, Xiaomi, the world’s most valuable start-up, announced the investment, but did not disclose the amount. The investment is in Xiaomi’s global business.

“Mr Tata is one of the most well-respected business leaders in the world. An investment by him is an affirmation of the strategy we have undertaken in India so far,” Lei Jun, founder and chief executive of Xiaomi, said in a statement.

Tata’s stake will be the first investment by an Indian in Xiaomi, which raised $1.1 billion in December. It already has investments from global funds like Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, GIC, All-Stars Investment and Yuri Milner’s DST Global.

Xiaomi was set up in April 2010, and it is estimated to be worth $45 billion. Its valuation is now three times more than that of personal computer maker, Lenovo. It launched operations in India in July last year. Since then, it has managed to become India’s fifth largest smartphone maker.

Prolific investor

Tata is estimated to be worth $1 billion (Rs6,000 crore), and is using his personal wealth to fund a clutch of startups.

Some of his earlier online investments include e-retailer Snapdeal, digital payment services provider Paytm, furniture retailer Urban Ladder, jewellery seller Bluestone, and automobile classifieds CarDekho.com.

He makes his investments through RNT Associates, which he set up in 2009. The firm is registered in Mumbai, and according to the registrar of companies, it has only two board members—Tata and RK Krishnakumar, who is the former managing director of the Taj Group of Hotels and his long-time aide.

India’s e-commerce sector is projected to reach $100 billion in size by 2020. With internet penetration increasing across the country and consumer spending spiking, everyone evidently wants a slice of the pie.

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