A day after India banned 43 more Chinese apps, homegrown digital payments company Mobikwik has put out a front-page advertisement taking a dig at Indian companies with Chinese investments, particularly its arch rival-Paytm.
The ad says the government has banned "220 Chinese apps" and asks "Are you still paying your bills with the 221st?". It urges customers to download MobiKwik, "the truly Indian payments app". The payments company is also offering Rs 100 cashback to new customers on using the code "India".
The intended target of the advertisement wasn't lost on Indian Twitter users. Communications strategy consultant Karthik Srinivasan compared the advert to a 'Surgical strike on Paytm' since Chinese giant Alibaba is one of the biggest investors in Paytm.
Srinivasan explained Mobikwik's subtle jibe in a Twitter thread.
On November 9, 2016, the morning after demonetization was announced (on the previous night, at 8pm), Paytm used the opportunity to pitch itself in context, in a front-page ad that made big news because of the brand ambassador featured in it, in a nudge-wink way :) 1/5 pic.twitter.com/kFIIns0xcM— Karthik (@beastoftraal) November 25, 2020
Paytm has chosen not to react to the intended jibe from MobiKwik, and responded saying "no comments" to BusinessToday.In query.
There were others who noticed too:
Founded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma in 2010, Paytm's other investors include Alibaba's Ant Financial, AGH Holdings, SAIF Partners, Berkshire Hathaway, T Rowe Price, and Discovery Capital.
Last November, the company raised a whopping $1.05 billion in Series G funding round, which was led by Alibaba subsidiary AliPay Express and SoftBank Vision Fund, which collectively invested around $400 million in the company. Paytm was valued at about $16 billion in the Series G round.
Sharma has previously defended the Chinese investment in the company saying his company is "as Indian as Maruti" and was proud to be part of the "India story".
Also, despite significant Chinese investment in his company, Sharma has been vocal about his support for the ban on apps from the neighbouring country. He was among the first to laud the government's decision to ban 59 Chinese apps back in June. Sharma called it a "bold step" and a step towards the "Atmanirbhar App ecosystem". However, social media users were quick to criticise Shekhar and point out Paytm's Chinese investors.
Bold step in the national interest. A step towards Atmanirbhar App ecosystem. Time for the best Indian entrepreneurs to come forward and build the best by Indians, for Indians!— Vijay Shekhar Sharma (@vijayshekhar) June 29, 2020
ये है भारत की डिजिटल क्रांति ! 🇮🇳#आत्मनिर्भरभारत
But Paytm is not the only successful startup with big Chinese money in India's digital landscape. A February 2020 report by think tank Gateway House says China has investments in 18 of the 30 unicorns in India. Some of the prominent ones are Flipkart, Byju's and Zomato.
Moreover, around two-thirds of Indian start-ups have at least one Chinese VC investor. Snapdeal, Khatabook, MyGate, Swiggy, Udaan, BigBasket, Lenskart -- all have received investment from Chinese companies.