June 17, 2014, 12:20 PM

B2B e-commerce activity picks up in India

IndiaMart launches what it calls India’s first B2B e-commerce marketplace, as Wal-Mart plans to expand online wholesale sales in the country.

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IndiaMart Intermesh Ltd., which claims to operate India’s largest business-to-business online marketplace at IndiaMart.com, recently launched the B2B e-commerce site, Tolexo.com. Unlike IndiaMart, which enables buyers and suppliers to find one another and enter contracts without paying online, Tolexo lets buyers complete purchases through an online shopping cart.

The move gives IndiaMart Intermesh a B2B e-commerce presence ahead of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which plans to launch a wholesale e-commerce presence in India this summer to complement its existing chain of 20 Best Price Modern Wholesale “cash-and-carry” stores.

For now, at least, Walmart India will take a back seat to IndiaMart Intermesh’s Tolexo.com, which already hosts more than 50,000 SKUs from more than 100 brands, a spokesman says. Claiming that Tolexo.com is India’s first B2B e-commerce marketplace, IndiaMart Intermesh says it “is expected to aggressively expand its product variants and categories.”

“It plans to reach 10,000 SKUs by inviting leading brands to register as a supplier on the web site, giving them an opportunity to massively improve their sales turnover,” a spokesman says.

Tolexo.com currently sells products across nine categories:

• Abrasives

• Tools (Cutting, hand and power tools)

• Safety & Security

• Fasteners

• Testing, Measurement & Lab Equipment

• Power Transmission

• Material Handling

• Sanitary & Janitorial

• Construction Electricals

Tolexo.com also provides fulfillment services to sellers through its Fulfillment by Tolexo program. It charges no product-listing fees, but once products are sold it charges sellers fees for marketing, payment gateway services, packaging and shipping.

IndiaMart.com provides software and services to more than 1.5 million suppliers for generating leads from more than 10 million buyers.

IndiaMart.com and Tolexo.com are units of IndiaMart Intermesh Ltd. The company is backed financially by investors including Intel Capital and Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd.

Walmart India, meanwhile, will introduce this summer a “B2B e-commerce platform to its Best Price store members, providing them with a convenient online shopping opportunity,” a spokesman says. He adds that the company plans to operate a pilot program offering online ordering for customers who are members of its Best Price stores in the major cities of Lucknow and Hyderabad. “We expect to extend e-commerce to all stores after we have successfully launched the pilot,” the spokesman says. Lucknow is the capital of the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India; Hyderadad is in the south Indian state of Telangana.

Walmart India will offer online an assortment of products similar to what it offers in its Best Price stores, which each feature about 5,000 items at wholesale prices, including fresh produce, dry groceries, hotel and restaurant supplies, clothing, office supplies and other general merchandise, the spokesman says.

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart also announced plans to open another 50 wholesale stores over the next few years. India law currently prohibits foreign direct investment in retail e-commerce, but allows it in B2B e-commerce operations. The Walmart India spokesman declined to comment on whether the company hoped to eventually also enter retail e-commerce should India’s laws on foreign direct investment change, as some experts have suggested they may.

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