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Exclusive: Inside Alibaba’s attempt to disrupt video commerce in India


Alibaba has tried several products like UC Web, VMate and a few others in India but none of these worked for the Chinese behemoth. While Alibaba is known for its e-commerce business, it didn’t launch any transaction-focused business locally.

That has now changed. It looks like Alibaba had silently made its debut in the Indian e-commerce space on its own with Yoli. According to two Entrackr sources, Yoli has been operational for about eight months and it is an affiliate platform on the lines of BuyHatke and CashKaro.

The mobile app claims to offer deals across e-commerce companies including Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Nykaa, Paytm Mall, Tata Cliq, Purplle, Firstcry, Bigbasket and Snapdeal.

“Currently, the app is similar to other affiliates sites. However, it will turn into a video-centric affiliate,” said one of the sources on condition of anonymity. According to him, the company is in talks with production houses to ramp up the infrastructure for video. 


“Similar to BulBul and SimSim, videos will have a ‘buy button’. It would redirect users to the sellers platform,” emphasised the second source. He too requested anonymity as he’s not authorised to speak to the media.

According to the data available on Google Play Store, the app has over a million downloads at the moment with a rating of 4.4. “The app will become a video-only affiliate site by June-July,” added the above-quoted person.

“We will not be able to comment on market speculation,” said Alibaba’s spokesperson in a response to Entrackr‘s detailed questionnaire.

Last year, video commerce startups had a good run in India. Several startups such as BulBul, SimSim and EkAnek among others had raised a decent amount of capital from angel investors and top-notch venture capitals. While Sequoia-backed BulBul via Surge, EkAnek closed sizeable $10 million seed round from Lightspeed, Matrix and Sequoia.

SimSim also closed its maiden round from a clutch of blue-chip angels and recently launched the micro-VC firm – Good Capital.

Alibaba’s entry into video commerce through affiliate platform will heat-up the competition in the space that promises to bring the next set of online shoppers from tier II, III and IV cities. Meanwhile, Yoli would also enhance the prospect of video commerce in India.

It’s worth noting that video has been driving a major chunk of TMall’s volume in China. According to Alibaba’s September 2019 quarter earnings result, over 50% of total sellers/brands at TMall used video streaming to engage consumers. Going forward, it would be interesting to observe how Alibaba’s video affiliate platform fares up in India.

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