Build versus buy: India’s quick commerce adtech arms race


Pranav Balakrishnan

47 reads

Pranav Balakrishnan

47 reads

With quick commerce players struggling to move towards profitability, selling advertising has emerged as a critical lever to drive both revenue and margins. Platforms, though, remain divided about whether to build these capabilities in-house or rely on third-party tools

May 21, 2024


Key Takeaways

  • Even though quick commerce platforms are currently enjoying their moment in the sun, profitability in the space remains elusive
  • With platforms looking to drive revenues and margins anywhere they can, selling ads is an increasingly vital revenue stream
  • Quick commerce platforms want to emulate the success of US-based Instacart, which earned over $800 million in advertising revenue in 2023
  • Building adtech muscle isn’t easy, though, leaving platforms with two options—build or buy

Quick commerce companies have been the toast of the town over the past year. In August 2023, Zepto became India’s first unicorn of 2023, and is now seeking to almost double that valuation with a fresh $300 million in funding. Blinkit, meanwhile, was the focus of parent company Zomato’s most recent quarterly earnings report, with the foodtech major even indicating that its quick commerce business would eventually outgrow its core food delivery business.

For all this traction, though, profitability is an uphill battle for quick commerce players, with most of these operations still decidedly in the red. In FY23, for instance, Mumbai-headquartered Zepto saw its losses widen 3X, year-on-year, to Rs 1,272 crore. Swiggy, too, saw its losses climb to Rs 3,629 crore in FY22, with its Instamart quick commerce offering believed to be a significant reason behind this.

While Zomato claims that its golden child Blinkit achieved adjusted EBITDA breakeven in the month of March, the truest picture of its financial performance can be seen in Zomato’s financials for FY23, during which Blinkit’s losses rose to Rs 1,190 crore.

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