India’s sovereign wealth fund NIIF leads $240m round in FirstCry unicorn baby product e-commerce


With sovereign wealth funds from other countries investing in startups, it would be remiss for India’s sovereign wealth fund to miss out. Now, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has made its first investment in a new era company – it led a $240 million secondary financing round in the commodity e-commerce company for FirstCry Babies, backed by Mahindra, and bought shares worth $100 million.

NIIF has received the green light from the CCI to invest, and according to a notification from the CCI, the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund-II will purchase shares of Brainbees Solutions Pvt Ltd under Section 5(a) of the Act of 2002 on competition.

The secondary funding round included participation from existing investor Premji Invest (which purchased additional shares) and NewQuest Capital Partners, SoftBank and Chiratae Ventures as well. The latter three sold shares as part of the transaction. SoftBank’s current stake in FirstCry’s parent company, Brainbees Solutions, is approximately 30%.

This brings the amount of minor primary capital raised by FirstCry to nearly $15 million over the past 12-18 months. It also comes after the $315 million secondary sale of shares it made in March 2021 to TPG, ChrysCapital and Premji Invest. At that time, it was valued between $1.9 billion and $2.1 billion.

With over 2,00,000 products across 6,000 brands and over 400 stores, FirstCry claims to be Asia’s largest online store for baby and kids’ products, ranging from clothes to school essentials. Launched in 2010, the first Pune-based online baby products retailer merged with rival BabyOye in 2016 to become the segment leader. It also ventured into the early education segment in 2019 by acquiring Oi Playschool for an undisclosed amount.

Founded by Supam Maheshwari, Prashant Jadhav, Sanket Hattimattur and Amitava Saha, FirstCry entered the unicorn club last February after raising $300 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund II.

It is owned and operated by BrainBees Solutions Private Limited, and used to own Expressbees, which may soon become a unicorn in its own right. Today, around 13 million parents engage with the platform each month. He signed Amitabh Bachchan as his brand ambassador in 2015.

As for NIIF, it has assets of more than $4.5 billion under management and manages three funds – the master fund, the fund of funds and the strategic fund.

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