India Traders Group Rebukes Approval of Walmart's Flipkart Acquisition

This week, Walmart’s planned acquisition of Flipkart has been given the go-ahead by Indian authorities, but much to the frustration of a local traders’ association that has mooted the possibility of taking the matter to court.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) said in a tweet that it “approves [the] proposed acquisition” of Flipkart by Walmart International Holdings. In its ruling, the commission said it had reviewed issues related to the planned merger and found the move unlikely to have “an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India”.

However, it said it took note of concerns related to heavy discounts and preferential treatment given to selected sellers on Flipkart’s marketplace, which it said might merit further examination from a competition perspective. This, though, played no relevance in its review of the proposed acquisition, it noted.

Approval from CCI was required in acquisitions or mergers that crossed certain turnover thresholds, of which the Walmart/Flipkart acquisition had, prompting the U.S. company to file a notice with the commission.

In May, Walmart said it was forking out USD$16bn (£11.82bn) for a 77% stake in the Indian e-commerce giant. The remaining shares would be held by Flipkart’s existing shareholders.

Walmart said it “welcomed” the CCI’s decision, adding that the union with Flipkart would “position us for long-term success and enable us to contribute to economic growth”.

The approved deal, however, did not sit well with business group Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT). Its secretary general, Praveen Khandelwal, told local media: “It is most unfortunate that leaving aside the objections raised by CAIT with CCI, the commission has approved the deal. Without giving any opportunity of hearing to CAIT, the CCI has flayed principle of natural justice.”

Khandelwal added: “We will move the Delhi High Court and even Supreme Court, if needed, against the decision of CCI.”

Representing more than 70 million small Indian traders, the CAIT previously filed an antitrust petition with the CCI to voice its objection against the acquisition. It highlighted concerns over unfair competition and the uneven playing field that Walmart-Flipkart would bring to the market, as well as “predatory pricing, deep discounts, and loss funding”.

Alibaba Group CMO Chris Tung said: “With the introduction of New Retail, customers are more engaged both online and offline. The decision to have an exclusive membership tier is not just about rewarding our most active members, it’s also about building an all-around experience our customers can enjoy everyday.”

Supermart App Shows Data on Food Lifecycle

Alibaba has introduced a new feature that lets consumers trace the lifecycle of fresh produce sold at just over a dozen of its Hema supermarkets in Shanghai.

The Chinese e-commerce giant said customers at 17 Hema outlets would be able to view the farm-to-store journey of more than 1,700 items across nine product categories, including meat, seafood, rice, tofu, vegetables, and fruits.

Using the Hema mobile app, they can scan the QR code of the item and view its lifecycle history including place of origin, date of product or harvest, delivery date, and storage temperature. In addition, they will be able to see photos of the farm in which the item was harvested, the distributor’s business license, as well as food safety certifications and official government seals.

Online shoppers at home can also access the information on the item’s product page via the Hema app.

Alibaba said the feature had been progressively rolled out since January and was part of efforts to cater to Chinese consumers’ growing sophistication in their food choices. It planned to expand the service to all of its 64 Hema stores across 13 cities in China by year end.

The Chinese e-commerce giant previously announced plans to tap blockchain technologies to monitor and manage supply chains, kicking off a pilot in Australia and New Zealand. Alibaba said it was working with Blackmores and Fonterra to test the use of blockchain to improve traceability and transparency in shipments heading from the two countries to China.

Alibaba Unveils ‘Omnichannel’ VIP Membership

In a separate announcement, the Chinese e-commerce operator has launched a ‘top-tier 88 VIP’ membership scheme that it says will offer these members an omnichannel experience that cuts across offline and online platforms.

The new membership tier sits within the 88 Membership Club, Alibaba’s customer loyalty programme that was introduced in August last year for customers of its Tmall and Taobao marketplaces.

Members with 1,000 membership points would have to dish out ¥88 (£10.03) a year for the upgrade to 88 VIP status, while members with fewer than 1,000 points would have to fork out ¥888 (£101.17) a year for the upgrade.

In return, 88 VIP customers would receive a 5% discount on Tmall Supermarket, as well as online stores of 88 local and international brands on the Taobao and Tmall. These members also would have membership across Alibaba’s various businesses, including its video-streaming platform Youku, music-streaming service Xiami, online ticketing service Taopiaopiao, and online delivery service Ele.me.

HK E-commerce Vendor Offers SaaS for Merchants Targeting China

Hong Kong-based Yoopay.cn has unveiled the general release of its e-commerce software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, which is targeted at global merchants looking to sell directly into mainland China.

The tech vendor said its software platform offered functionalities localised for the Chinese market, as well as user control, so retailers would be able to manage their own e-commerce customer data, process, and branding.

Yoopay’s founder and CEO Tong Li said: “Localised e-commerce functionalities for the Chinese market, bilingual user interface, and global payment capabilities, enable international merchants to sell directly to discerning Chinese consumers.

“From inventory management to shopping carts, online marketing, offline events, CRM, payments and delivery logistics, it provides full-stack e-commerce capabilities optimised for both online and mobile”, Tong said.

He added that the Yoopay e-commerce platform was integrated with WeChat, China’s largest mobile social network, which he said would enable its users to run social media marketing campaigns and build brand image and loyalty.

The software also offers a plugin for WordPress and supports integration with other e-commerce systems, such as Shopify and Magento.