Reliance buys stake in blockchain startup focussed on commodity trading
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Energy-to-telecom conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has purchased an equity stake of 5.56% in UK-based blockchain startup Vakt Holdings Ltd for $5 million (Rs 35 crore).

In a stock-exchange filing, the Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate said the investment was aimed at accelerating its digital journey through active participation in an emerging and evolving blockchain-enabled technology solution for energy markets.

Reliance Industries derives the bulk of its revenue from its energy business.

Vakt Holdings is a consortium of leading global energy majors, commodity traders and banks whose vision is to digitise the global commodities trading industry with the help of blockchain technology.

The blockchain platform, which is  being developed in sync with companies such as BP, Shell and Statoil, trading houses Koch Supply & Trading and Mercuria, and banks ABN Amro, ING and Societe Generale, will be used for oil and gas trading, according to energy portal S&P Platts.

The platform, which is expected to be up and running from early next year, aims to reduce administrative and operational risks and costs of energy trading.

The report further said that VHL’s intent is to move away from traditional and cumbersome paper contracts and operations documentation to secure, smart contracts and authenticated transfers of electronic documents.

The development comes months after Reliance Jio Infocomm, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries, was said to be in the process of hiring a team that will focus on artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and blockchain.  

There was also speculation that Reliance Jio might launch its own cryptocurrency.  

Technology bets

The conglomerate has made a number of investments in the technology space in the recent past.

In October, Reliance acquired a 12.7% stake in SkyTran Inc., a US venture-funded technology company developing pod car transport systems.

A month before that, it made a follow-on investment of $8 million (around Rs 58 crore) in US-based artificial intelligence firm Netradyne Inc, which focuses on driver and fleet safety.

In June, Reliance Industries had agreed to acquire Radisys Corporation, a US-based open telecom platform solutions provider, for $75 million (Rs 510 crore) in cash.

In April, it decided to invest $180 million (Rs 1,175 crore) in ed-tech startup Embibe.

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