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YouTube acquires Indian social commerce platform Simsim

Short influencer-fronted infomercials may seep into YouTube

YouTube announced yesterday it signed a definitive agreement to acquire India's two-year-old social e-commerce platform, Simsim. The transaction is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

Simsim operates an app that uses short videos, often fronted by influencers, to sell stuff. The company publishes vids in three languages: Hindi, Tamil and Bangla.

A Google blog post drew comparisons between YouTube and Simsim, signaling an emerging focus on facilitating small business digital marketing – particularly micro-influencers building loyal followings.

"Every day, people come to YouTube to compare products, watch reviews and find recommendations from their favorite creators," reads the tech giant's blogpost, adding "the simsim app serves as a platform to connect local businesses, influencers and customers."

In Google's words, the acquisition will "help viewers discover and buy products from local businesses". The online ad giant also said the acquisition builds on the company's ongoing investments in India.

Last year, Google committed US$10 billion to the nation through the India Digitization Fund. The company has also targeted the subcontinent as a prime source of the "next billion users".

Currently, YouTube boasts well over 450 million monthly active users in India.

No immediate changes are expected for Simsim, and it will continue operating independently. However, YouTube viewers may begin to see content from the Gurgaon-based startup as Google has said it will "work on ways to showcase simsim offers to YouTube viewers".

No details of the deal were given, but Simsim's co-founders did issue a cheery statement – as you might expect from someone who has just been bought out by Google. It reads:

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.

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. We can’t wait to be part of YouTube and are excited to build simsim within the most admired tech company in the world.

Google has had a complicated relationship with India, as regulators scratch their heads over how to control the giant. Last month the nation's Competition Commission ordered an investigation into Google over the advertising giant's use of the Android operating system in its smart televisions.

Another antitrust case against Google in India was opened in November of 2020, regarding its bundling of Google Pay with Android.

In March, Indian MP Sushil Kumar Modi, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party suggested India adopt legislation that compels YouTube and other platforms to pay local news publishers or face forced arbitration. ®

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