Etailers Seek RBI Approval to Offer Loans to SMEs

Only Indian cos such as Snapdeal provide credit to the sellers on their platforms

Some of the top etailers operating in India have sought the Reserve Bank of India's permission to lend to small and medium enterprises listed on their platforms.

A senior RBI official said some suggestions were made at a town hall organised by the central bank in Delhi for ecommerce companies and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).“There were some suggestions made in this regard, and we have forwarded them to the head office. They are being looked at,“ he said, requesting anonymity . At present, only Indian firms such as Snapdeal provide credit to the sellers on their platforms to meet working capital requirements.

The primary issue is that the holding pattern of some of the ecommerce companies is not clear, the official said. “They come under foreign direct investment (FDI) category and are not permitted to extend credit,“ he added. At present, Amazon Inc offers its business loan programme to small sellers in the US and Japan.

According to reports, Amazon Lending, founded in 2012, plans to offer short-term working capital loans in eight other countries, including India. The facility is on invite-only' basis.

Snapdeal, which runs India's largest ecommerce website, plans to disburse loans of around Rs.1,000 crore by March 2016 to SMEs under its seller financing platform, Capital Assist. The firm has further tiedup with a clutch of banks and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs) for its seller financing programmes.

Earlier, Kunal Bahl, co-founder and chief executive of Snapdeal, had said that the firm has zero non-performing assets, which shows SMEs want to perform and grow in the ecommerce setup. “Ideally , capital assist should not exist. If the ecosystem of finances was friction-free enough, ecommerce companies need not get into the system of facilitating finances,“ he had said. The firm has over 2 lakh sellers operating on its platform. According to a report, Impact of Ecommerce on SMEs in India', jointly conducted by research firm KPMG and Snapdeal, around 41% of SMEs in India do not have access to bank loans or other products offered by financial institutions, with a financing gap of more than Rs.2.93 lakh crore.

The Economic Times, New Delhi, 16th Oct. 2015

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