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Naver, Mirae Asset ramp up investment in India’s promising startups

Naver's growth fund targets expansion in Southeast Asia as well as handsome returns on investment

By Oct 28, 2021 (Gmt+09:00)

Naver, Mirae Asset ramp up investment in India’s promising startups

South Korea’s top online platform operator Naver Corp. and brokerage giant Mirae Asset Securities Co. are aggressively investing in promising startups and businesses in India to bolster operations in Southeast Asia as well as gain handsome returns.

According to the investment banking and information technology industries, India, the world’s third-largest economy following the US and China, accounted for 75% of Naver and Mirae Asset’s fresh investment in overseas startups so far this year.

Already a strong player in e-commerce and mobile apps in Korea, Naver has been actively seeking growth opportunities in Asia, particularly in India, where the online business growth potential is greater than in other countries.

Through a joint growth fund, the two companies in July participated in a $145 million fundraising by ShareChat, India’s leading social media and social networking service, operated by Bangalore-based Mohalla Tech Pvt Ltd.

The investment, an extension of Mohalla Tech’s Series F round, was led by Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek and US investment firm Moore Strategic Ventures.

The Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund is known to have invested tens of billions of won in ShareChat via the Series F round.

With more than 160 million monthly active users across a dozen different Indian languages, ShareChat allows users to share videos, songs, private messaging and other social content.

Also in July, the Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund and Swedish multinational clothing and fashion firm H&M have jointly invested a combined $45 million in India’s Trell through its Series B round.

Founded in 2016, Trell is a leading lifestyle video app available in eight Indian languages across 20 lifestyle categories such as fashion, beauty, personal care, recipes, food, travel and movie. Trell has over 50 million monthly active users.

Naver, Mirae Asset ramp up investment in India’s promising startups

ATTRACTIVE DESTINATION

India has become an attractive destination for Korea’s big companies as well as startups eyeing overseas expansion, given the Asian country’s vast population and diverse markets offering rich opportunities for potential investors.

It is also the world's fourth-largest producer of unicorns, having produced more than 50 unicorns so far this year.

“Naver is using India’s promising startups as its springboard to expand its business in Southeast Asia,” said an industry official. “India’s IT platform is growing at a faster rate than in other parts of the Asian region.”

In February, the Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund invested $75 million in KreditBee, an Indian fintech startup.

Launched in 2018, the 1 trillion won ($853 million) Asian startup fund is managed by Mirae Asset Capital Co. and Mirae Asset Global Investments Co., while Naver leads the investment pipeline.

The venture capital fund focuses on e-commerce, internet platforms, healthcare, consumer goods, logistics and distribution service sectors in rapidly growing Asian markets such as India, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Naver has been utilizing the fund actively in its foray into Southeast Asia over the past few years.

Mirae Asset-Naver Asia Growth Fund's investments in Southeast Asia

 Timing  Companies
August 2018 Singapore-based ride-hailing startup Grab
January 2019 Indonesia's e-commerce platform Bukalapak
April 2019 Indonesia's grocery platform HappyFresh,
May 2019 India's largest online grocery store Bigbasket
August 2019 Singapore's hotel booking startup RedDoorz
November 2019 Vietnam-based entertainment startup POPS Worldwide
December 2019 India's logistics startup Shadowfax
March 2020 Malaysia’s online shopping platform iPrice
September 2020 *Singapore's used goods market place Carousell
December 2020 India’s No. 2 food delivery service Zomato
February 2021 Indian fintech startup KreditBee
July 2021 Indian lifestyle video app Trell
July 2021 India’s social media and SNS app ShareChat
October 2021 Vietnam's e-commerce platform Tiki
*The fund and NH Investment & Securities jointly invested in Carousell

OTHER INVESTMENTS IN INDIA

Other Indian startups the Naver-Mirae fund has invested over the past couple of years include India’s No. 2 food delivery service Zomato, logistics startup Shadowfax and the country’s largest online grocery store Bigbasket.

Naver, the company behind Asian messaging giant Line Corp., among other digital properties, has also been aggressive with its investment in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce platforms.

Last year, the Naver-Mirae Asset fund invested $10 million in Malaysia’s online shopping platform iPrice and $80 million in Singapore-based startup Carousell, a marketplace platform for used goods.

The fund, which in 2019 acquired stakes in Indonesia-based e-commerce platform Bukalapak and grocery platform HappyFresh, has made an additional investment in the two startups earlier this year.

In the second half of 2019, the fund invested in Singapore-based hotel booking startup RedDoorz and Vietnam-based entertainment startup POPS Worldwide.

The fund’s active investment in Southeast Asian startups is set to reap handsome returns.

Singapore-based ride-hailing startup Grab, in which the Mirae-Naver fund invested $150 million in 2018, has seen its enterprise value rise to $40 billion, up over 70% from $11 billion.

Write to Joo-Wan Kim at kjwan@hankyung.com

In-Soo Nam edited this article.

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