Bengaluru-based commerce platform Niki (earlier Niki.ai), on Wednesday (November 13), said that it has raised an undisclosed amount of fresh funding. Talking to Inc42, US-based fintech-specialist fund EMVC confirmed that it has invested in Niki with its existing investors.
Founded in 2015 by Shishir Modi, Sachin Jaiswal, Keshav Prawasi, and Nitin Babel, Niki is a B2C commerce app used across Tier 2, 3 and 4 towns of India, to transact online by assisting them in every step with assurance through a conversational agent in ones’ language.
Niki claims to have fulfilled nearly 1 Mn transactions across Hindi, Bengali and Tamil. It claims to be on track with gross merchandise value (GMV) to hit an annualised run rate of $100 Mn by March’20.
Niki’s Growth Plans
The company is now looking to add seven more languages in the next 12 months. It will also go deeper in smaller towns and cities by adding 25,000 more in Tier 2-4 locations by March 2020 to build on the 18,000 localities in its current footprint across the Hindi belt of India.
Sachin Jaiswal, CEO and cofounder, Niki said, “Since realigning our focus to cater directly to language-first consumers, we have seen brand virality and 30% M-o-M growth.”
The company has previously raised funds from SAP, Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures, LetsVenture, Japan’s Recruit Partners, Haresh Chawla (Partner at True North) and Arihant Patni, along with some US and German investors. In 2018, Niki had registered an INR 200 Cr gross merchandise revenue (GMV) annualised at the current run rate. During 2017-18, the company witnessed a double-digit boost.
Melissa Frakman, founder and managing partner at EMVC, said, “The exceptional founding team has a uniquely personal understanding of its customers and has reimagined a voice-first, trust-centred experience to solve for new internet users’ specific challenges and preferences. From a global perspective, Niki is paving a new path for solving ecommerce and fintech distribution for the world’s emerging internet economy.”
Vernacular And AI
More and more startups are now looking to leverage AI and machine learning (ML) models to offer enterprise-facing products that use some element of automation. A study by Accenture revealed that AI could add $957 Bn to the Indian economy with the potential to increase the country’s total income by 15% by 2035. Investors and large corporates have also shown the appetite to partner with such tech startups to stay ahead of the curve as tech penetration and adoption increases.
Vernacular reach has become an essential part of a brand’s identity towards attracting and retaining the upcoming internet users. Notably, a study by KPMG India and Google said that Indian language internet users are expected to grow at a CAGR of 18% vs English users at a CAGR of 3%.
A Kantar IMRB report further showed that digital adoption is now being propelled by rural India, registering a 35% growth in internet users over the past year. It is now estimated that there are 251 Mn internet users in rural India, and this is expected to reach 290 Mn by the end of 2019.
Update: November 13, 2019 | 21: 10PM
The earlier version of the story mentioned that EMVC has tied up with Niki as it looks to raise $20Mn-$30 Mn growth financing. After talking to EMVC fund, the story has been updated to say that EMVC has invested an undisclosed amount of funding in Niki.