Investing in India

Snapdeal CEO: We will be India's biggest e-commerce player

Snapdeal CEO: We'll be India's largest e-commerce firm by March

Delhi-based e-retailer Snapdeal is confident of becoming the market leader in India's rapidly-growing e-commerce market by the end of this fiscal year through March, co-founder and CEO Kunal Bahl told CNBC early Wednesday.

According to data by Morgan Stanley, Snapdeal is currently the second-biggest player in India, with a market share of 32 percent. Rival Flipkart, the poster boy of Indian e-commerce, is holding on to the lion share of 44 percent, while U.S. behemoth Amazon accounts for 15 percent of market share.

"[Flipkart] had a [headstart] of $500 million and 10,000-person, but it doesn't seem like that any longer. We are quickly covering ground there. Also, a lot of the investments we made in infrastructure and other platforms like consumer-to-consumer (C2C) and payments are paying huge dividends," said Bahl, who was speaking to CNBC at the Morgan Stanley Asia Pacific Summit in Singapore.

"Our market share is only climbing year-on-year. Three years ago, our market share was zero," he added.

Co-Founder and CEO of Snapdeal, Kunal Bahl, gestures while addressing the media in Bangalore on April 8, 2015.
Manjunath Kiran | AFP | Getty Images

India's e-commerce sector has grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, on the back of improving telecommunications infrastructure and as Indian consumers grow increasingly comfortable with shopping online.

A report by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India along with PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the sector to log a compound annual growth rate of 35 percent and cross the $100 billion mark in value by 2019. The study, released in December 2014, put the industry at a current value of $17 billion.

To step up its game against bigger rivals, Snapdeal has been on an acquisition spree, while earmarking huge investments into technology such as making browsing faster on its app and website. The move was essential, according to Bahl, with "30 percent of buyers still using 2G networks."

In terms of buyout opportunities, the online marketplace which bills itself as India's version of Alibaba, has targeted start-ups in the broader mobile and data analytics space as it attempts to create a complete ecosystem. Recent acquisitions include payments and mobile recharge startup Freecharge and digital financial distribution platform RupeePower.

Read MoreSnapdeal: India's e-commerce can grow faster than China

"We are inspired by what Alibaba has built but we have adapted the business model for India, like we invested heavily in supply chain much earlier on than Alibaba because we feel that infrastructure in India isn't that great so we have to front-load those investments ourselves. We have been very acquisitive because we feel that it's hard to do everything really well organically so it's great to get entrepreneurs on board in areas of investments that we think are going to be critical for our business," Bahl, who co-founded Snapdeal with his schoolmate Rohit Bansal, said.

Despite the shopping spree and huge investments, the chief executive believes the company he co-founded in 2010 as a daily deals website, remains on track to become profitable in two to three years.

"It's really important to invest in capabilities such as supply chain, warehouse and last-mile infrastructure because if we don't, what are we really building? India did not have a decent logistics company that could deliver large appliances so we actually had to build the last-mile fleet that could deliver large appliances [such as] refrigerators and air conditioners to the houses of customers and that's yielding huge results because customers who are buying these high-value, bulky items online are increasing," he told CNBC.

"So I stand by that statement I made some time back that it will take us 2-3 years to get to profitability."