Chennai-based rural ecommerce startup Inthree has raised $4 mn in a Series A funding round led by Ventureast, with participation from Orios Venture Partners and the IAN Fund.\r\n\r\nThe startup plans to use the funding to strengthen its technology infrastructure, enhance its capabilities in last-mile logistics, and deepen its penetration in the 10 states where it operates.\r\n\r\nFounded in 2013 by Ramachandran Ramanathan, Karthik Natarajan, and Narayanan, Inthree operates under the brand name Boonbox and has an omnichannel business model.\r\n\r\nThe company claims to have developed the expertise and capability to build and manage the entire commerce ecosystem in rural areas using technology.\r\n\r\nIt claims to have sold more than 1.5 Mn durables to more than 1 Mn households.\r\n\r\nRamanathan, Karthik, and Narayanan, the co-founders of\u00a0Inthree, said, \u201cInthree has always focussed on providing the most appropriate products, backed by home delivery (irrespective of distance) and top class after-sales service. We are delighted to be funded by some of the best names in the industry and plan to utilise the funds to increase scale and strengthen our backend capabilities to delight our customers.\u201d\r\n\r\nEarlier,\u00a0reports had surfaced that the company closed FY 2016-17 with a turnover of INR 50\u00a0Cr and has more than doubled its\u00a0top line in the year ending March 2018 to INR 118 Cr.\r\n\r\nInthree, with its brand Boonbox, has partnered with brands directly and has posted a gross profit of more than INR 2 Cr despite being bootstrapped with internal accruals till recently.\r\n\r\nThe company last raised funds from IAN in September 2017.\r\n\r\nSiddhartha Das, general partner, Ventureast,\u00a0said, \u201cBoonbox is ushering the next wave of rural transformation by delivering branded products to the doorstep of the rural consumers. By mitigating the friction points around financing, last-mile logistics, and supply chain through technology based solutions, Inthree is pioneering the shift to assisted rural e-commerce. While financial inclusion was aimed at 'banking the unbanked', the key breakthrough here is in 'making the inaccessible accessible' to the semi-urban and rural population.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor the end merchant, Boonbox is a platform to establish a foothold in rural markets as it aggregates demand for various products and then places orders with merchants.\r\n\r\nThe products procured by Inthree goes through the company\u2019s warehouse where it is checked for quality and packaged for despatch to customers' homes.\r\n\r\nCommenting on the investment, Amitabh Shrivastava, managing partner, IAN Fund, said, \u201cIndia sits on a goldmine in terms of the next set of users who will be transacting online and that will comprise mainly in the rural areas where Internet penetration is 15% and growing exponentially. Inthree is perfectly placed to make most of the upcoming surge in this trend as it has already established itself in the market and has an unfair first mover advantage in this space.\u201d\r\nRural Ecommerce Industry In India\r\nAt present, Indian ecommerce industry is waiting with bated breath for the\u00a0upcoming national ecommerce policy. There has been incessant activity in the sector, with\u00a0US retail giant Walmart acquiring Indian ecommerce company Flipkart, US ecommerce major Amazon increasing its bets in India, and search giant Google looking to enter Indian ecommerce and a lot more.\r\n\r\nRural markets have been largely untapped in ecommerce even as players such as Flipkart and Amazon continue to expand their presence in the country.\r\n\r\nSatish Meena, analyst with Forrester Research, had reportedly said that the Indian e-tailing market totalled $16 Bn in 2016, rising to $20 Bn in 2017. The only segmentation he offered was a 40-60 split \u2014 40% of the gross merchandise value (GMV) is generated in metros while 60% comes from non-metros.\r\n\r\nCatering to Indian rural ecommerce, we have players such as StoreKing, IndiaBuys, among others.\r\n\r\nA joint study by Bain & Company, Google, and the Omidyar Network said India\u2019s 500 Mn Internet users have the potential to unlock more than $50 Bn worth of transactions in online commerce in the country.\r\n\r\nThe report, entitled 'Unlocking Digital for Bharat: $50 Billion Opportunity', noted that there is 55% Internet penetration in urban areas versus just 15% in rural areas.\r\n\r\nThe IBEF expects the Indian ecommerce sector to reach $200 Bn by 2026 and rural areas continue to hold a major key to growth and expansion of this industry.