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“Source:- Economic Times”
RIL’s new investments

Reliance Industries is going all out to support startups in the country, but its investment thesis point towards strengthening its soon-to-be launched ecommerce venture. The pilot for the ecommerce has reportedly begun, but there is no specific timeline on when it will be launched formally. Recently, the company announced major investments in drone startup Asteria Aerospace and NowFloats Technologies.

Flying high

The investment in Bengaluru-based drone startup Asteria Aerospace for Rs 23.12 crore, was done through Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Ltd. The investment will give RIL a 51.78% holding in Asteria Aerospace. Reliance has also proposed to invest a further Rs 125 crore in the drone startup. The investment which is expected to be completed by December 2021, Reliance will increase its shareholding to 87.3%. On the commercial front, Asteria says it provides drone-based services to survey, inspect and monitor assets in industries such as oil and gas, mining, construction and agriculture. It also works in the security and surveillance sector, supplying drones to military, paramilitary and police forces. (Pic: Asteria Aerospace/Facebook)

Say it with SaaS

Reliance Industries’ subsidiary Reliance Strategic Business Ventures Ltd (RSBVL) has picked up 85 per cent stake in NowFloats Technologies. This startup offers Software As A Solution (SaaS) to small and medium enterprises that enable them to get a digital presence. Its solutions include local content discovery platform, online business management suite, website promotion and marketing solutions. At present the company has around 2,50,000 customers using their products. As Reliance gears up for its ecommerce roll out, getting small stores online will be the key. (Pic: NowFloats Technologies/ Facebook)

Focus on agriculture, healthcare, skill development

In an interview Mukesh Ambani had said, “Jio is a startup built in India, for India, by Indians and we have a special place in our hearts for startups. You may know 80% of the cost of running a startup goes towards cloud and connectivity infrastructure. He added that Jio is ready to take away this cost by making the connectivity and cloud infrastructure absolutely free for budding startups. “I urge all startups to register for their custom designed package on Jio.com and this service will be available from January 1, 2020. Jio will also invest and financially support those startups which have the potential to address India’s big needs in agriculture, healthcare, education and skill development which will boost the creation of new livelihood,” he added.

Picking up stakes

In the last two years, Mukesh Ambani has picked up stakes in over 20 startups and about half-a-dozen small companies. Ambani and his merger & acquisition team have been extremely busy past few months, cherry-picking nearly two dozen startups with visible potential. In April, the company acquired artificial intelligence platform Haptik in a Rs 700 crore deal.

The Haptik story

Haptik is one of the world’s largest conversational AI platforms and counts Samsung, Coca-Cola, Future Retail, KFC, Tata Group, Oyo Rooms and Mahindra Group among marquee clients. Last March, Reliance Jio announced integration of its digital music service, JioMusic, and OTT platform Saavn that powers Amazon Alexa in India. The combined entity, valued at over $1 billion, then brought in JioSaavn to compete with the likes of Amazon Music, Apple Music and Gaana.

Will Fynd challenge Amazon & Flipkart?

In August this year, Reliance Industrial Investments & Holdings subsidiary had invested Rs 295.25 crore in Fynd. This deal saw early backers Google, Venture Catalysts and Kae Capital exiting the retail-focused startup. In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange, RIL said its subsidiary has an option to further invest Rs 100 crore in Shopsense Retail Technologies, which runs Fynd, by December 2021. The total investment will translate into an 87.6% stake in Fynd, it said. RIL wants to challenge the mights of Amazon.com, and Walmart owned Flipkart with this purchase.

Betting big on e-commerce

Fynd, which was founded in September 2012, acts as a bridge between physical retail stores and buyers online. While Google and the other early investors are exiting the firm, its founders have held onto their equity, said Harsh Shah, who founded the firm along with Farooq Adam and Sreeraman Mohan Girija. RIL said the investment would further enable the group’s digital and new commerce initiatives. Reliance has been beefing up investments and acquisitions in the tech and Internet space as it prepares to launch services like e-commerce on the back of its huge reach through Reliance Jio Infocomm. (With inputs from Rahul Oberoi)