In Reliance Industries’ quest to build India’s digital ecosystem, startups take centre stage

In 2016, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries announced that its Reliance Jio arm – which was then the Indian conglomerate’s very own startup – would set aside a Rs. 5,000 crore venture capital fund to encourage entrepreneurs to build “businesses of the future.”

A yr later, on the company’s 40th annual common assembly, Mukesh Ambani reiterated his commitment to entrepreneurs and startups when he stated, “Just as Reliance became known in the past 40 years as a company that won the trust of millions of retailers, it will be known in the coming decade as an enterprise with lakhs of partners and an enabler of a large ecosystem of entrepreneurs.”

At the moment, simply two years after he made that assertion, Reliance Industries – India’s most dear company – has already established itself as an enabler of the Indian startup ecosystem, having stepped up its engagement with startups by means of outright acquisitions, partnerships, or fairness stake purchases.

At Reliance Industries’ 40th AGM, Mukesh Ambani stated the company will probably be recognized within the coming decade as an enabler of a giant ecosystem of entrepreneurs. (Picture credit: Flickr)

In the past yr alone, the Indian conglomerate has acquired majority stakes in at the very least 9 progressive, know-how and content material startups – all of which seem poised to strengthen the company’s ‘new commerce’ and digital revolution drive.

Mukesh Ambani, in January, stated the company would mix the strengths of its Reliance Jio and Reliance Retail arms to create a ‘new commerce’ platform that might effectively marry the info and on-line attain of Jio and the offline reach of its retail arm, which boasts greater than 10,000 stores across 6,000-odd cities.

To be clear, given Reliance’s mission to lead the digital revolution in India by empowering all Indians and enterprises, the corporate appears poised to proceed partaking with startups that provide technology-driven options that can be used on its shopper platforms and as part of its digital choices.

In flip, these startups stand to achieve just by the sheer scale – each when it comes to attain and funding – that solely a large, well-established participant like Reliance can present.

As Arvind Pani, Co-founder of Reverie Language Technologies, informed YourStory after the Indic language know-how developer was acquired by Reliance,

“It’s very satisfying that this is an acquisition where the tech gets a place for massive scale. Our mission is to create language equality on the Internet, and that cannot be achieved unless we reach millions of users. In India, there’s no other company other than Reliance that could’ve provided us with that platform.”

In accordance to firm filings, a number of the key startup acquisitions made by Reliance up to now yr embrace end-to-end voice know-how firm Reverie Language Applied sciences, pharma software solutions supplier C-Sq. Information Solutions, logistics startup Grab A Grub Providers, simulation software program startup SankhyaSutra Labs, citizen providers firm Easygov, and AI chatbot startup Haptik.

HV Harish, an analyst who was formerly with Grant Thorton, says,

“Generally, large corporates try to engage with startups because that is where the innovation is happening, with significant value creation and new business models.”

In Reliance’s case, this engagement might solely achieve pace, as the corporate implements a startup engagement strategy that is followed by the likes of many international giants corresponding to Cisco, Facebook, Google, and Walmart – all of whom companion with startups to leverage the new and revolutionary applied sciences and options being constructed by these entrepreneurs.

As Harish explains, “It is difficult to do significant disruption innovation within a large corporate, while it is the entrepreneurs who take that risk.”

Reliance, acquisition, startups

Also learn: Can Reliance beat Amazon and Flipkart in ecommerce?

JioGenNext: rush from startups

In the previous few years, Reliance’s engagement with startups has been driven by its devoted startup accelerator JioGenNext, which acts as the bridge between startups and the Reliance Industries or Jio ecosystem. JioGenNext, which receives hundreds of proposals from startups every year, advises and mentors entrepreneurs on launching their startup within the Jio ecosystem.

In FY18 alone, JioGenNext acquired more than 3,000 purposes from startups and aspiring entrepreneurs in India throughout its two cohorts – of this, 29 startups made the minimize to be selected in the company enterprise programme.

“If they (startups) are in JioGenNext, our outcomes are a commercial partnership, acquihire, and strategic investments. We want our entrepreneurs to run the company in case of an acquihire while Reliance owns a subsequent stake,” says Amey Mashelkar, Head of JioGenNext.

He did not, nevertheless, disclose the variety of startups that had been acquired by Reliance.

JioGenNext has completed 11 batches of startups up to now, working with seed and pre-series A startups. The primary eight of these have been horizontal-focused. By the ninth, the accelerator started to give attention to startups creating solutions that impression India in sectors starting from agriculture to healthcare, and financial providers.

The ninth batch of startups targeted on agriculture, with an emphasis on agri-tech for farm management and marketplaces with the purpose of getting these startups work with the Reliance Basis and the Jio Network. The 10th batch targeted on pc vision, whereas the 11th targeted on monetary providers.

JioGenNext, Reliance

Amey Mashelkar, Head of JioGenNext, with startups a part of the Reliance corporate accelerator programme (Image credit: JioGenNext)

On average, Reliance JioGenNext works with 10-15 startups per batch and has thus far engaged with over 150 startups.

“Our job is to push and front these startups and facilitate conversations with businesses. Our programme coaches these startups to go to market (GTM) with a great product. Our job is to make sure they think through technology, GTM, and product roadmap. We bring in mentors from outside too and weekly reviews happen every Saturday. Our idea is to expose them to as many businesses as we can,” Amey says.

Also learn: GenNext Hub’s Amey Mashelkar talks co-innovation, buyer acquisition, and the importance of millennial entrepreneurs

Chasing new frontiers

The engagement with startups also matches into Reliance Industries’ future roadmap when it comes to creating new opportunities via new, emerging applied sciences.

“Some of the key trends that will enable the Fourth Industrial Revolution include AI robotics and services, digital presence, Big Data, smart cities, wearable internet, Internet of Things (IoT), and sharing economy, among others. The startups selected are expected to transform these domains,” Reliance stated in its annual assertion.

For instance, last yr, Reliance Industries acquired a $180-million-worth-majority stake in Bengaluru-based online schooling platform, Embibe, which makes use of synthetic intelligence know-how and leverages knowledge analytics to deliver personalised learning outcomes to college students across all schooling markets.

“The investment in Embibe underlines Reliance’s commitment to growing the education sector in India and the world, and making education accessible to the widest possible group of students by deploying technology… and believe that their (Embibe’s) highly experienced management team will be instrumental in enabling Reliance to realise its vision for the education sector, and strengthening Jio’s leadership position as a digital technology company,” stated Akash Ambani, Director, Reliance Jio.

Akash Ambani, Director, Reliance Jio

Akash Ambani, Director, Reliance Jio (Picture credit: Flickr)

Indeed, JioGenNext is focussed on startups working in three areas of strategic interest for Reliance – digital shopper providers, enterprise solutions, and retail and logistics. The subsequent frontier for the accelerator can be digital monetary providers.

By FY18-end, Reliance had engaged with 80 startups, with 34 of those within the enterprise options category, 30 in digital shopper providers, and 16 in retail and logistics sector.

Additionally read: Reliance pronounces strategic funding of $180M in Embibe, the most important AI platform for schooling

Owning the client’s digital lifecycle

According to an business analyst, Reliance Industries has “built the highway” especially within the space of telecommunications, however they are now constructing their very own digital ecosystem of apps.

“Once the customer comes onto their network, they (Reliance) can own their entire digital lifecyle and also get a share of their wallet,” he advised YourStory.

The basic instance of this was the acquisition of Saavn, a music streaming app, in March 2018, with an enterprise valuation of $1 billion. The music app, which was merged with JioMusic, has now achieved a milestone of 100 million month-to-month lively users.

Equally, when speaking concerning the acquisition of AI-driven chatbot startup Haptik, Akash Ambani stated,

“This strategic investment underlines our commitment to further boost the digital ecosystem and provide Indian users conversational AI-enabled devices with multi-lingual capabilities. We believe voice interactivity will be the primary mode of interaction for Digital India.”

The petroleum-to-retail big believes that by 2025, India will grow to be the second-largest startup ecosystem. Reliance Industries believes there will probably be an estimated one million startups by then, which can make use of over three million individuals and influence 30 million small and medium businesses (SMBs) with advanced tools and technologies.

And as Reliance Industries’ appears to strengthen its digital and ‘new commerce’ push, its current spate of acquisitions and partnerships with startups may be the beginning.

As JioGenNext’s Amey says in his message to startups,

“If you have something to scale, come to us for being on the Jio and Reliance Retail network. There is a lot in the works, and it’s only the beginning for Reliance.”

Also watch: The within story behind Reverie’s acquisition by Reliance