Pinduoduo surpasses JD.com on GMV two years earlier than planned, says founder Huang (updated)

The platform now wants to reframe itself as a marketplace for branded merchandise.

Photo: Provided by company with the press release

Chinese social e-commerce company Pinduoduo’s founder and chairman Huang Zheng said that its platform’ Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV), which measures the overall volume of transactions in a given period, has actually surpassed that of JD.com, Late Post reported on Monday.

Huang made such remark earlier this month, without disclosing actual numbers, in a speech facing all Pinduoduo’s employees that was also live-streamed online internally, according to Late Post.

Pinduoduo declined to comment when contacted by KrASIA on Monday. In 2018, Huang once said his company planned to surpass JD.com in terms of GMV in three years.

The company disclosed on its second-quarter earnings release that GMV in the twelve-month period ended June 30, 2019, was RMB 709.1 billion (USD103.3 billion), an increase of 171% year-on-year.

It is hard to tell how Huang comes to such a conclusion as JD.com has stopped providing data on its GMV since the first quarter of this year. JD.com’s 2018 financial report, in which GMV appeared for the last time, shows that transaction volumes on the platform ceased continual growing and actually fluctuated quarter by quarter.

In the fourth quarter of 2018, JD.com’s GMV was RMB 514.4 billion, while in the third quarter, the indicator was RMB 394.8 billion, down from RMB 437.4 billion in the second quarter. In the first quarter of 2018, its GMV was RMB 330.2 billion, down from RMB 403.4 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Although it is hard to verify whether Huang’s remarks are well-grounded, data disclosed by both companies have shown that Pinduoduo is now China’s second-largest e-commerce platform by annual active users.

Pinduoduo had 483.2 million active buyers in the twelve-month period ended June 30, 2019 while JD.com had 321.3 million over the same time frame.

Huang also told Pinduoduo’s employees that it is still too early for the company to expand overseas and to invest downstream and upstream. He added that the two urgent priorities for Pinduoduo are strengthening its merchant’s network to reframe Pinduoduo as a marketplace for branded merchandise, as well as attracting and retaining talents, Late Post reported.

“When we were listed a year ago and unfamiliar to most people, despite our consistent message, some competitors tried to frame us as a platform that will only attract price-sensitive users in lower-tier cities. Also, they said that our products are cheap because they are of low quality or even knockoffs,” Huang in August told investors in the second-quarter earnings call.

Pinduoduo has hosted over 3.6 million merchants by the end of the second quarter, but its capability to attract large brands have been limited by Alibaba’s practice of asking merchants to exclusively choose one platform for their goods.

JD.com contacted KrASIA on Friday to provide additional information on its GMV, to explain why it won’t disclose quarterly GMV and to offer a comment on the remarks of Huang, who is also Pinduoduo’s CEO.

Here are the written statements.

“JD’s business had a solid growth with the increase of GMV by 29.55%  in 2018 compared with 2017. Beginning 2019, we will no longer disclose quarterly GMV, but will continue to disclose full year GMV, which is consistent with our major industry peer. The GMV data currently disclosed are for industry comparisons only and are not meant for financial analysis purposes. As we expand our service business, GMV is also increasingly less relevant to our revenue streams in the future.”

“We note PDD CEO’s recent claim that their paid GMV has surpassed JD’s, which is simply not true. Based on our internal analysis, we believe there is a significant gap between PDD and JD in terms of GMV (by any imaginable measures), basket size, return rate and so on. JD.com’s business has maintained an accelerated growth trend this year, as can be clearly seen in our earnings results for Q1 and Q2 2019, supported by many new customers from competing platforms in lower tier cities.”

(The story is updated on Friday to include JD.com’s comments.)