Reliance Jio, after disrupting the telecom sector in India, is now on an acquisition spree. The most recent deal that the Mumbai-based company struck was of conversational AI platform startup Haptik that was announced formally just earlier this week. However, the company also has a healthy record of buying new-age startups and tech companies to expand its presence and reach new audiences. The telco ventured into music streaming by buying Saavn last year. It also bought various wireless infrastructure assets of Reliance Communications (RCom) to enhance its telecom business in the country. All these moves are ultimately aimed to take the existing user base of over 28.01 crore users, as per Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), to new levels.
On Wednesday, Reliance Jio announced the acquisition of Haptik, the startup that offers conversational artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to enterprises, for about Rs. 700 crores. The operator will hold about 87 percent of Haptik's business and gain access to voice assistant-building technologies that could compete against Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa.
"This strategic investment underlines our commitment to further boost the digital ecosystem and provide Indian users conversational AI enabled devices with multi-lingual capabilities," said Akash Ambani, Reliance Jio's Director, in a press statement. "We believe voice interactivity will be the primary mode of interaction for Digital India."
Reliance Jio's smart feature phone, Jio Phone, already has Google Assistant support to enable voice commands. The new acquisition would help the company uplift the experience by adding new updates. Notably, the Google Assistant integration on Jio Phone saw a six-fold growth in its usage in just four weeks. This reflects the growth potential of voice assistants in India.
Companies such as Samsung, Future Pay, and Grofers are among major customers of Haptik. But nonetheless, the latest support from Reliance Jio is likely to take the business of the Mumbai-based startup to new heights.
To enter the world of music streaming, Reliance Jio in March last year announced the integration of its digital music service, JioMusic, and OTT platform Saavn. The combined entity, which was valued at over $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,917 crores), brought JioSaavn app that competes against the likes of Amazon Music, Apple Music, and Gaana.
The terms of the deal enabled Reliance to take a stake in Saavn for $104 million (roughly Rs. 719 crores). At the time of announcing the development, the two companies in a joint statement mentioned that the combined platform will also build on Saavn's Original Programming and Artist Originals and benefit the ecosystem of users, music labels, artists, and advertisers.
"The investment and combination of our music assets with Saavn underlines our commitment to further boost the digital ecosystem and provide unlimited digital entertainment services to consumers over a strong uninterrupted network," Ambani had said while announcing the strategic transaction.
Den Networks, Hathway Cable and Datacom
Apart from getting bigger in the digital entertainment market, Reliance Jio in October last year picked up a majority stake in Den Networks and Hathway Cable and Datacom. The company acquired a 66 percent stake in Den Networks with a primary investment of Rs. 2,045 crores and a 51.3 percent stake in Hathway Cable and Datacom with an initial investment of Rs. 2,940 crores. The investments were majorly aimed to boost the rollout of Jio GigaFiber, which is already in testing to take on Bharti Airtel, BSNL, and other broadband providers in the country. Reliance Jio also importantly has the wireless infrastructure assets of RCom to bolster its telecom presence.
Reliance Industries acquisitions
Reliance Industries acquired open telecom solution provider Radisys in June last year for $74 million (roughly Rs. 511 crores). That deal was majorly focused towards enhancing Reliance Jio's presence in the areas of 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), and open source architecture adoption.
"Radisys' top-class management and engineering team offer Reliance rapid innovation and solution development expertise globally, which complements our work towards software-centric disaggregated networks and platforms, enhancing the value to customers across consumer and enterprise segments," 28-year-old Ambani had stated at the time of acquiring Hillsboro, Oregon-based Radisys last year.
Haptik isn't the only AI-based platform startup that has been acquired by Reliance Jio and its parent company Reliance Industries so far. Reliance Industries in April last year also bought a majority stake of 72.69 percent in AI-based education platform Indiavidual Learning (Embibe). The startup built an AI-based education platform that leverages data analytics to offer personalised learning outcomes to students.
Reliance Industries agreed to invest the rupee equivalent of $180 million (roughly Rs. 1,240 crores) into the Embibe platform. "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," Ambani had said at the time of announcing the deal last year.
In addition to the deals specifically to amplify the occupancy of Reliance Jio, parent Reliance Industries last month reportedly acquired three software companies, namely Reverie Language Technologies, Surajya Services (EasyGov), and SankhyaSutra.
Reverie, which builds language technologies to offer a language-as-a-service model, would receive up to Rs. 190 crores through Reliance Industries Investments & Holdings (RIHL), a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, as per the documents filed with the National Stock Exchange.
Surajya Services, on the other hand, is a data solution company that is popular of its EasyGov online portal, which details government schemes and services to citizens. In contrast, SankhyaSutra Labs offers high-performance computing software simulation services.
RIHL also last month announced the acquisition of logistics services platform Grab A Grub for a cash consideration not exceeding Rs. 106 crores. The deal would help the company kick off its e-commerce model to rival Amazon India and Flipkart in the country.
In the coming future, Reliance Jio and other Reliance Industries' subsidiaries are likely to continue their acquisition trend to retain their leadership in the market. But the results of the acquisitions are yet to be majorly seen from the user perspective.