With an eye on online shoppers. YouTube buys social commerce startup simsim

Topics YouTube | acquisition | Startups

Online video sharing and social media platform YouTube is acquiring social commerce media startup simsim. Photo: Reuters
Online video sharing and social media platform YouTube is acquiring social commerce media startup simsim, cashing in on the emerging opportunity of the segment in India.

The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

“As more and more shopping happens online, video has an important role in helping viewers discover new products and find expert advice they trust. Every day, people come to YouTube to compare products, watch reviews and find recommendations from their favorite creators. Today, we are taking another step to help viewers discover and buy products from local businesses: we have signed a definitive agreement to acquire simsim and expect to complete the transaction in the coming weeks,” said Gautam Anand, VP, YouTube APAC in a blog.

Simsim, according to Anand, is helping small businesses in India transition to e-commerce by using the power of video and creators. The simsim app serves as a platform to connect local businesses, influencers and customers.

The company had raised $16 million in 2020. According to a joint report by consulting firm Bain & Co and venture capital firm Sequoia Capital last year, the social commerce opportunity in India is pegged at $16-20 billion by 2025, compared to around $2 billion last year.

Other examples of platforms enabling social commerce are GlowRoad, Shop 101, Bulbul and SimSim. “These platforms operate through apps that can be downloaded for free, and predominantly target the mushrooming number of mobile users wanting to earn an extra income,” said Ankur Pahwa, EY India e-commerce and consumer Internet leader.  

Social commerce means buying and selling directly through a social media platform such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram or Twitter — is expected to grow significantly in the next few years. The app user is referred to as the reseller.

In a joint statement, simsim cofounders, Amit Bagaria, Kunal Suri and Saurabh Vashishtha said, “We started simsim with the mission of helping users across India shop online with ease, enabled through small sellers and brands showcasing and selling their products using the power of content by trusted influencers. Being a part of the YouTube and Google ecosystem furthers simsim in its mission. We cannot think of a better ecosystem in which to build simsim, in terms of technology, reach, creator networks and culture.”

“By bringing simsim and YouTube together, our goal is to help small businesses and retailers in India reach new customers in even more powerful ways. There will be no immediate changes to simsim, the app will continue operating independently while we work on ways to showcase simsim offers to YouTube viewers,” he added.

Anand said in the blog post that the investment in simsim builds on YouTube’s ongoing investments in India, such as the India Digitisation Fund. "As we work with our partners to expand access to the Internet, we know online video will continue to grow as the primary way to find information, entertainment and connections in India," he said.

Earlier this year, social commerce platform Mesho became a unicorn with fresh funding led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2. This round valued the firm at $2.1 billion. It hit the headlines in 2019 for being the first company in India that attracted investment from Facebook.

"We’re inspired by the opportunity in India and look forward to working with the simsim team to build the future of online video commerce in India," he said.

Here’s how it works:

Creators post video reviews about products from local businesses, and viewers can buy those products directly through the app.

Videos are available in three local languages including Hindi, Tamil and Bengali, enabling retailers of all sizes to reach buyers through video in their preferred language.


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