Groupon expands empire overseas

Faith Merino · January 11, 2011 · Short URL:

The company now operates in India, Israel, and South Africa

Every time I write about Groupon, I feel like I can barely keep up with the company’s growth rate.  Just last month the startup had just grown to 46 million subscribers (up from some 30 million in the months prior) and was operating in 35 countries in North America, Asia, Latin America, and Europe.  Now, right after Groupon announced the close of its monster $950 million fundraising round on Monday, the company announced Tuesday that it has added three more countries to its roster: India, Israel, and South Africa. 

The expansion comes via strategic acquisitions of the Indian Groupon clone SoSasta, the Israeli clone Grouper, and the South African clone Twangoo.  The acquisitions add some 700 new employees to Groupon’s worldwide staff, bringing its total headcount to 4,000.  Additionally, its user base has gone from 46 million to 50 million.

Groupon now bears an uncanny likeness to the Roman Empire as it announces that all three sites will transition to Groupon’s brand name but will continue to operate in their local communities’ primary languages: English in India and South Africa, and Hebrew in Israel.  It’s like Groupon is Caesar telling a newly conquered people that he will not slaughter their men and make slaves of their women and children if they simply agree to shop locally using Groupon’s daily deal platform.

“Collective buying is in its infancy in India, Israel and South Africa and we see strong potential,” said Groupon’s president and COO Rob Solomon in the company’s announcement. “Groupon is shaping the way local merchants market themselves in every corner of the world.”

India’s SoSasta, launched three months ago, currently serves 11 cities while Israel’s Grouper, launched in March 2010, serves Tel Aviv and surrounding cities.  Twangoo serves up more deals than any other deal site in South Africa, according to Groupon’s announcement.

Rumors of a Groupon China recently surfaced with reports from various Chinese news sites stating that Groupon execs have been meeting with five of China’s major daily deal sites.  Last week published an allegedly leaked email from Groupon stating that it’s hiring a management team for Groupon China. 

But Groupon’s global expansion hasn’t been all smooth sailing.  Last week, Andrew Mason announced in a blog post that Groupon is suing an Australian clone called Scoopon for domain name squatting and refusing to sell unless Groupon acquires the startup altogether.  Groupon had offered the clone’s founders more than $280,000 for the rights to the domain name and trademark, which the brothers, Gabby and Hevi Leibovitch, initially accepted, but then soon after changed their minds.  While Groupon awaits the resolution of the lawsuit, it has launched a site called Stardeals. 

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