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Over the last couple of years, Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has been slowly but steadily making its presence felt in the Indian startup ecosystem. In the recent development, the online food ordering and restaurant discovery firm Zomato is in advanced talks to raise up to $200 million from Alibaba and its payments affiliate Ant Financial, also known as Alipay, reports BGR.

The Chinese e-commerce major’s interest in the Gurgaon-based startup comes at a time when Zomato has narrowed its losses by over three-fourths in FY17 while growing its revenues by 80%.

The latest round, which could see Alibaba pick up a major stake in the company, may value Zomato at $1.1 billion, which in turn will make Zomato enter into the Unicorn club that it missed by a small margin during the last round of financing. Zomato has raised $60 million from Singapore’s sovereign fund Temasek that valued the company at $960 million, in 2015.

According to the media reports, the deal, if it goes through, will be part of Alibaba and Alipay’s global play as Zomato has a strong presence in Southeast Asia and the Middle East as well.

“There are synergies between the two players in the international markets, especially Southeast Asia where Alibaba is building a strong presence. But the deal is not finalized as there is no term sheet yet,” said the source.

Earlier this year, Zomato rolled out its subscription-based product — Zomato Treats — for users in India. The service is modeled on Zomato Gold that is available to users in the UAE and Portugal. A Zomato Treats subscription gets customers a free dessert with every meal they order from Zomato partner-restaurants in 16 Indian cities.

The domestic food ordering market is heating up with new global entrants like UberEATS and Google Areo. Zomato also has to contend with its biggest Indian rival Swiggy that raised $80 million from South Africa’s Naspers earlier this year. Foodtech has traditionally been a difficult business, with over 20 startups shutting down in the last 1-2 years. It is only now — since 4-5 months — that the tide seems to be turning with close to $700 million of fresh capital being pumped into the sector. The industry is estimated to cross the billion-dollar mark by 2020, and it will most likely be a 2-3 player market with Zomato,

Foodtech has traditionally been a difficult business, with over 20 startups shutting down in the last 1-2 years. It is only now — since 4-5 months — that the tide seems to be turning with close to $700 million of fresh capital being pumped into the sector. The industry is estimated to cross the billion-dollar mark by 2020, and it will most likely be a 2-3 player market with Zomato, Swiggy and UberEATS battling for the top honors.

The Chinese e-commerce giant made its first move in India two years ago in 2015 by making an investment in Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s Paytm, a mobile wallet firm. As of today, its stake in Paytm has grown to 60%.

While Amazon has launched a full blown attack into India, Alibaba has been keeping a low profile but going for the big guns. As of today, Alibaba has clenched its teeth across e-commerce, web content, online ticketing, and digital payments businesses in India.It is most likely to add many more businesses to its portfolio in the near future and give its American counterpart Amazon a run for its money in India, just the way it drove out the latter out of its home country China.

It is most likely to add much more businesses in its portfolio in the near future and give its American counterpart Amazon a run for its money in India, just the way it drove out the latter out of its home country China.

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