Tata Group preps big incentives to retain BigBasket founders

The conglomerate wants BigBasket's founders to continue running the show as the online grocery plots a valuation hike and an IPO. Its operations are smoothening out under the control of Tata Group, which will also invest $200 million for expansion

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By 

Aditi Shrivastava

Madhav Chanchani

May 21, 2021

8 Min Read

For the five founders of India’s largest online grocery—Hari Menon, Vipul Parekh, Abhinay Choudhari, VS Sudhakar and VS Ramesh—setting up an online retail business and selling it to one of India’s largest business groups is not new. 

The same team back in 1999 had set up Fabmart.com, selling everything from cassettes to groceries during the dotcom boom. Among its backers was Reliance Industries.  

Fabmart ultimately pivoted from online to offline retail after the dotcom bust, and the business was renamed Fabmall. Reliance Industries exited along the way. And Fabmall was acquired by Trinethra Retail, a Hyderabad-based offline supermarket chain, in 2004. Menon and his cofounders were part of the senior management team of Trinethra, which was then acquired by Aditya Birla Retail in 2007. They left Trinethra soon after. 

With the BigBasket-Tata Group deal, the plan is different. 

Tata Group, which is acquiring a controlling stake in BigBasket, has drawn up a scheme to retain and incentivize the BigBasket founders by doubling the value of their holdings, said three sources briefed on the matter.

“The Tatas are very clear that Hari and the team need to run the show,” said one of them who is directly briefed on the developments. “Fortunately, Tata has a long history of being a good holding company with TCS (Tata Consultancy Service) and Tata Motors in the past. They have let companies build independently.”

THE UPSHOT

Tata Group's $1.1 billion deal for BigBasket will be a test case for Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran’s ‘super-app’ strategy, and retaining the online grocery's founding team is pivotal to its success

Tata Digital, a newly formed private unit under Tata Sons, is buying a 64% stake in BigBasket at a pre-money valuation of around $1.6 billion, said two of the sources. 

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