YouTube buys into social commerce possibilities as it snaps up Simsim

20 Jul 2021

Image: Simsim

Simsim’s early success in social commerce shows how YouTube can introduce ways to go directly from viewer to buyer.

YouTube will acquire Indian start-up Simsim and intends to integrate some of its social commerce features into the video platform.

Two-year-old Simsim saw a rapid fundraising journey from seed to Series B, totting up close $16m in funding to date. China’s Shunwei Capital and VC firm Accel Partners backed both Series A and B rounds at the start-up, while Global Capital came on as an early seed investor.

Terms of the YouTube deal were not disclosed but sources informed TechCrunch that Simsim was valued at more than $70m.

Simsim is the app and platform owned and operated by SZS Tech, founded by Amit Bagaria, Kunal Suri and Saurabh Vashishtha. Both Bagaria and Vashishtha held senior roles at Indian fintech Paytm, while Suri and Vashishta spent time at management consultancy McKinsey.

The Simsim platform connects small businesses with influencers who in turn encourage potential customers to buy products and services by creating video reviews. Purchases can be made by users directly through the app, which serves up videos in Hindi, Tamil and Bengali.

“The Indian consumer is used to a very different shopping experience offline – one which is social and highly interactive,” Bagaria explained in 2020. “Of course, all these interactions are in local language and dialects. It is this experience and method of shopping which we are replicating at Simsim.”

With a definitive agreement signed, YouTube expects the acquisition to be completed in the coming weeks. No immediate changes will be made to Simsim and the app will continue operating independently.

It is expected that Simsim’s social commerce features will be integrated into YouTube. Gautam Anand, vice-president at the Google-owned company, said that it will “work on ways to showcase Simsim offers to YouTube viewers”.

This will likely be focused on YouTube users in India, but this market has proven a key space for YouTube to introduce new features. YouTube Shorts, which launched in Ireland earlier this month, was released in India first.

“We’re committed to bringing the best of YouTube to India and growing the creator community by making it even easier for the new generation of mobile-first creators to get started,” wrote Anand in a company blog.

YouTube has noted how video can be leveraged in online shopping. Viewers are known to check out videos to discover products and recommendations, and conduct research into product comparisons and reviews.

“We started Simsim with the mission of helping users across India shop online with ease, enabled through small sellers and brands showcasing and selling their products using the power of content by trusted influencers,” said the founders of Simsim in a joint statement.

“Being a part of the YouTube and Google ecosystem furthers Simsim in its mission. We cannot think of a better ecosystem in which to build Simsim, in terms of technology, reach, creator networks and culture.”

Last year, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced a Google for India Digitization Fund, which committed around $10bn in investment into India over five to seven years. “This is a reflection of our confidence in the future of India and its digital economy,” said Pichai at the time.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.