Mukesh Ambani-backed Reliance Industries is clearly on a startup acquisition spree. It recently acquired a majority stake in Fynd, which hints towards Reliance’s increasing ambitions in the e-commerce sector. Also called as Shopsense Retail, Fynd provides a technology platform and solutions to merchants to manage their inventory and sales across multiple demand channels for consumers, including e-commerce platforms. It sources products across categories such as clothing, footwear, jewellery from nearby outlets and brings them online.
Founded in 2012 by a trio from IIT-Bombay — Harsh Shah, Farooq Adam and Sreeraman MG — Fynd has been backed by investors such as Google, Kae Capital, Tracxn Labs and Rocketship.vc. The startup raised Series C funding from Google in 2018.
As a part of the deal, RIL bought the stake for ₹295 crore as it aims to push for online-to-offline (O2O) commerce giving it an 87.6% stake in the startup. The 150-member Fynd team, including the founders, will keep working for the startup. Shah was reported as saying that they will have their products and roadmaps ready and the startup will continue operating the way it does right now
Reliance Builds Proficiency In E-commerce With Fynd
Fynd is one of the first startups to get into the O2O space in the country and with this deal, RIL has put out its ambition to compete with retail giants such as Amazon and Walmart. Reliance Industries already runs retail stores and aims to diversify into e-commerce. There are even reports of Amazon being in a talk with Reliance’s retail unit to buy a stake in its retail business.
RIL’s retail and e-commerce push don’t come as a major surprise as it had also had unveiled a Retail 2.0 programme that aims to cannibalise e-commerce to achieve a unique convergence of online and offline retailing across formats through omnichannel presence. The retail revenues have also been good growing at a CAGR of 56% over FY16-19.
It is clearly looking to expand beyond its oil and gas, petrochemicals and refining business by bringing in new digital and e-commerce initiatives. It has shifted its focus to technology-driven initiatives and is looking for an entirely different revenue composition. It wants to transform into a dominant, mass consumer-oriented franchise.
Reliance’s Tryst With Digital And Tech Space
RIL has picked up stakes in more than 20 startups and about half-a-dozen small companies in the last two years. The trend of startup acquisition has ranged from acquiring conversational artificial intelligence platforms such as Haptik to music streaming, telecom, media production house and more. It suggests that RIL has much more up its sleeve in the coming years, especially in the digital and tech space. The company is clearly aiming to consolidate its stand in the Indian market.
It had also acquired Saavn that powers Amazon Alexa in India along with buying Radisys for $74 million in a deal focused majorly on enhancing Jio’s presence in 5G, IoT, and open-source architecture adoption.
The company has cracked the code that Indian consumer is open to technology adoption. With its primary investments in oil and energy, it is now aiming to strengthen its secondary business in the form of technology advancements.
Some of the recent acquisitions that RIL has made in the past are:
Haptik: Reliance Industries acquired one of the world’s largest conversational AI platforms in a ₹700 crore deal. With this acquisition, RIL aims at further boosting the digital ecosystem and providing Indian users conversational AI-enabled devices with multi-lingual capabilities.
Reverie Technologies: It acquired Bengaluru-based local language technology service startup Reverie Technologies, the investments of which are likely to be closed by March 2021. Founded in 2010, Reverie is a cloud-based, language-as-a-service (LaaS) platform that helps apps and content go multilingual. With this acquisition, RIL was looking to enhance its market reach manifold by delivering their applications and content in local languages in real-time.
Embibe: RIL picked up a 72.69% stake in online education platform Embibe in April last year. It was one of the biggest transactions in Indian education and deep technology space and Reliance’s second major transaction this year.
Netradyne Inc: After an initial investment of $16 million in US-based AI startup NetraDyne it made a follow-up investment in 2018 of $8 million. The startup focuses on driver and fleet safety and uses artificial intelligence for the same.
Easygov: Reliance announced an agreement to acquire shares in data solutions and software company Easygov for up to ₹18 crore.
SankhyaSutra Labs Private Limited: RIIHL entered into an agreement for the acquisition of equity shares of SankhyaSutra Labs Pvt Ltd (SSL), a high-performance computing software simulation services company, for a cash consideration not exceeding ₹16.02 crore.
Vakt Holdings: With this acquisition, RIL was looking to accelerate its digital journey through active participation in an emerging and evolving blockchain-enabled technologies.
Reliance’s End Goal
While Reliance has been showing up advancements and developments in the tech space by its startup acquisitions, with Fynd it has made clear that it wants to go strong in the retail space too. Reliance is definitely not looking to settle for anything less than being a supreme power in the Indian tech space for which acquiring startups comes as an easy and best way.