CCI Approves Acquisition of Alibaba-Backed BigBasket by Tata Sons

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on Thursday approved the acquisition of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.-backed online grocery seller BigBasket by Tata Sons Pvt Ltd.

The Tata-BigBasket deal has put the conglomerate in direct competition with Amazon and Walmart’s Flipkart.

In the filing with the CCI, Tata Digital Ltd., a wholly-owned unit of Tata Sons, had proposed to buy 64.3% of an entity that runs business-to-business sales for BigBasket.

The move comes as e-commerce sales, especially of food and groceries, have exploded in India as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred a shift to online shopping.

BigBasket’s rivals are expected to spend heavily on the e-grocery business.

Meanwhile, BigBasket co-founder and CEO Hari Menon at a separate event said the company hired over 12,300 persons in 16 days during the first lockdown to meet the surge in demand as a large number of people started turning to digital platforms to shop for grocery items.

E-commerce companies had initially struggled to deliver orders after the 21-day lockdown, imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus, came into effect from March 25 last year. Even though the government had allowed delivery of essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment through e-commerce platforms, players complained that their delivery staff was being hassled by police.

Also, with local authorities shutting down warehouses and stopping trucks from crossing state borders, e-commerce players had seen massive disruption in their operations even as orders spiked during the lockdown. Companies like BigBasket and Grofers hired thousands of staff at that time to deliver the orders.

The 59-year-old executive also emphasised on the importance of being a learning organisation. Learning elements of culture and managing people are more critical than being a technocrat and understanding technology, since that can be outsourced as long as you know where your organisation is headed, he added.