The world’s largest retailer, Walmart Inc, seems dead serious about strengthening its foothold in India. Walmart, which agreed to acquire homegrown ecommerce platform Flipkart in May, is now looking to make a tech acquisition to strengthen its technology unit, Walmart Labs.
According to a report, Walmart Labs is mostly looking for acqui-hires and niche tech-product startups. Acqui-hiring refers to the practice of buying a company in a cut-price deal, primarily for the purpose of “hiring” the company’s founders and key employees.
The acquisition will, however, be of a much smaller size compared to its investment of $16 Bn to buy a 77% stake in Flipkart.
Walmart chief technology officer Jeremy King, in an interview at its Silicon Valley office, said, “I’m looking at (acquisition candidates) in merchandising, machine learning right now.”
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Walmart Labs has one of its three global offices in Bengaluru where 90% of its work for India is executed. The office has a competitive intelligence and analytics team to push its innovation. It also has a team for sourcing that understands which warehouse to pull items from when a person orders, among other works.
According to King, the Walmart Labs is currently hiring engineers with expertise on machine learning (ML), merchandise, supply chain, data science, product managers and cloud experts.
On the other hand, Walmart’s main rival Amazon India is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to adoption of newer technology. The company is fast increasing the adoption of ML to cut product returns, improve the speed and accuracy of product deliveries. Similarly, Flipkart has also announced to push its effort to put ML and AI at the core of its business.
According to Gartner forecast, the data management software market revenue in India is growing to become a $950 Mn market in 2018, with a 13.2% year-over-year increase.
Gartner principal research analyst Ehtisham Zaidi said, “The ‘fast followers’ are even looking to make heavy investments in advanced analytics solutions driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
India’s venture capital firms are taking significant steps in the software sector as well. In a recent development, Bengaluru-based early-stage Inventus Capital Partners announced the first close of its third fund and will invest in startups focused on areas of applications such as ML and AI. Similarly, US-based investor Y Combinator recently invested in an AI-focused startup.[The development was reported by Livemint]