m.Paani, India’s leading local retailer digitisation platform, has raised USD $5.5m or INR 39 crores, in a Series A investment round led by AC Ventures, Henkel, Candy Ventures, in addition to noteworthy angel investors including Kevin Aluwi, CEO and Co-Founder of Gojek and Suvir Varma, Board Member and Senior Advisor at Bain & Company, Private Equity.  Existing investors Chiratae Ventures and Blume Ventures also participated in the round.  


A Google Launchpad and Google Studio company, m.Paani is digitizing and organizing local retailers to deliver the neighbourhood shopping experience of the future.  It will use the funds to invest in product development, accelerated growth and expansion, and key hires.

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Akanksha Hazari-Ericson, CEO and Founder of m.Paani, says, “We have always believed in the local retailer.  They win on every consumer consideration: service, quality, product selection, value, credit and delivery speed.  Small businesses also account for more than 40% of employment. They are a bedrock of communities and the economy.  m.Paani is bridging the technology gap to ensure that our local retailers not just survive but thrive in India 2.0. The future of Indian retail is, and must be, local.”  A successful second time entrepreneur, Akanksha is a Princeton University and Cambridge University alumnus.  


Jesús Eduardo García Chapa, Executive Director of Venture Capital, AC Ventures: “We are very happy to be a part of m.Paani’s journey.  Their vision to foster local retailers is something we share and are absolutely convinced is a game changer for the traditional trade channel and the retail industry.”


Indian retail is powered by more than 60 million local businesses, that represent a $1.1trillion informal market or more than 95% of total retail.  Despite the launch of e-commerce and new big box retail options, this unorganised market has more than doubled in the past 5 years, and 86% of the average Indian consumer’s shopping continues to happen within 3-4kms of home, at local neighbourhood shops.  As over a billion Indian consumers quickly come online, these local shops – the vast majority of which are not digitized in any way whatsoever yet – must transform to serve this new digitally-driven shopper.


Today, m.Paani has more than 50,000 retailers and 7 million consumers on its platform.  Growing at 30%+ per month, this lean 25-member team has managed to rapidly scale organically, with no physical sales teams, incentives nor meaningful marketing investments so far.  Most notably, m.Paani has proven monetization via retailer subscriptions, delivering business growth of more than 25% to its most engaged retail partners. As one m.Paani partner shares, “We are a local retail pharmacy chain and we realized that competition from online players was affecting our business a lot.  Thanks to m.Paani, in last 2 years, our customer base has grown by 73% and repeat shopper base has grown by 51%.”  


m.Paani’s retailer product – ‘Aapka Business Saathi’ or ‘A Partner in your Business’ – is a full suite solution enabling local shops to go online, digitise their consumer relationships, access business data and insights, and manage their business operations more effectively.  Focused on the daily needs categories e.g. grocery, chemist, fresh fruits & vegetables, dairy and more – consumers now have their entire neighbourhood in the palm of their hand. They can discover their local shops, products and offers online – order online by creating a single shopping list across all their daily needs or shop directly online from their favourite local shops – in addition to enjoying an enhanced offline shopping experience via in-store features. 


Kevin Aluwi, CEO and Co-Founder, Gojek: “m.Paani has a very strong team, and a deep understanding of the local retailer reflected in a great product and sound strategy for solving for this important user’s problems and aspirations.  I am very excited to be a part of m.Paani’s journey and also see huge potential for them to empower local retailers beyond India.”


“It’s exciting to see incredible entrepreneurs grow their startups” said David McLaughlin, Director, Google Developer Ecosystem, Google. “To see Akanksha and m.Paani take the next step in their journey alongside the Gojek founders she met in our accelerator showcases one of the many benefits for startups that take part in our program.”


Dr. Rahmyn Kress and Marius Swart, heads of Henkel’s venturing and open innovation platform Henkel X Ventures: “The Indian retail market provides huge potential for Henkel’s business which can be unlocked by innovative digital go-to-market models. m.Paani has developed a powerful mobile platform that connects consumers and local retailers and has already proven the capabilities of its business model. We are excited about this partnership through which we aim to gain valuable insights about the local retail market while evaluating the potential of the platform and technology for our other global consumer markets.”


Suvir Varma, Board Member and Senior Advisor at Bain & Company, Private Equity: “I am very excited to invest in the team at m.Paani.  Given my extensive review of deals across the region, m.Paani has built a truly unique model to digitize the local store retail experience, which is the cornerstone of commerce in emerging markets.  They’ll soon become invaluable to consumers and brand owners alike, and could easily be one of India’s next unicorns.”


Founder, Akanksha received the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award for Economic Empowerment 2016 from Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Madeline Albright, recognised in US Senate Resolution 418.  Alyse Nelson, President and CEO, of Vital Voices shares: “Akanksha’s bold approach to creating social change in India demonstrates the types of innovative solutions we need to truly make sustainable progress.  Vital Voices is privileged to partner with Akanksha as she continues to prove and scale her model to create a better world for us all.”

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