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Reliance Jio set to buy majority stake in Times Internet-backed chatbot firm Haptik
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A unit of Reliance Industries Ltd is set to buy a majority stake in artificial intelligence-based conversational platform Haptik as the Mukesh Ambani-led conglomerate looks to continue its recent spree of snapping up technology startups.

Reliance Jio Digital Services Pvt. Ltd will fully acquire Mumbai- and San Francisco-based Haptik Inc, two people familiar with the development told TechCircle on the condition of anonymity.
 
However, a third person said that the transaction would be more of a strategic investment rather than an outright acquisition. This person pegged the deal value at $100 million (Rs 693 crore at current exchange rates) but did not elaborate on the size of the stake involved.

As part of the deal, Times Internet, which is currently Haptik’s majority stakeholder, will be completely exiting its investment, the person said. Times Internet is the digital business arm of media conglomerate Bennett, Coleman and Co Ltd (BCCL).

An official announcement about the deal is expected in the coming weeks.

The other two people cited above said that Reliance Jio had struck a formal business transfer agreement with Haptik earlier this month.

They added that the proposed transaction would be by way of a slump sale. A slump sale refers to a transaction where an entity is sold for a lump sum amount without considering the individual values of the assets or liabilities.

Reliance Jio could potentially embed Haptik’s virtual assistant across its digital platforms including music streaming service JioSaavn apart from messaging, video and other services that complement its mobile network. Incidentally, JioSaavn competes with Times Internet’s streaming app Gaana.

Email queries sent to Reliance Jio as well as Haptik founders Aakrit Vaish and  Swapan Rajdev did not yield a response till the time of publishing this report.

Haptik
Haptik was founded by Vaish (chief executive officer) and Rajdev (chief technology officer) in 2013.

The startup offers an AI-based chatbot that can help consumers interact with virtual agents and organisations via both text and voice. For organisations, Haptik’s solutions help in dealing with customer service, customer feedback, user engagement and lead generation.   

Haptik has built chatbots for enterprise customers such as Samsung, KFC, P&G, Tata Group, Amazon Web Services, ICICI Bank, The Times of India, Viacom18, Dream11, Edelweiss Tokio, Club Mahindra, and IIFL.   

In April 2016, Haptik raised an undisclosed amount from Times Internet in its Series B funding round, thereby providing an exit to venture capital firm Kalaari Capital. As part of the deal, Haptik also formed a partnership with Times Internet. 

Before founding Haptik, Vaish was heading the Indian operations of Flurry Inc—a mobile analytics, monetisation and ads firm—which was acquired by Yahoo in July 2014. He also co-founded and headed a real estate platform for college students, which was acquired by CommonFloor in April 2014.

Rajdev was a software engineer at Radius Intelligence Inc before setting up Haptik. The former Accenture consultant is also the founder of Zing! Apps that creates web-based iOS applications.

Reliance’s acquisitions

Reliance Industries has been on a shopping spree of late, with the oil-to-telecom conglomerate buying majority stakes in at least five companies this year to emphasise in digital ambitions.

The investments are expected to complement the company’s digital commerce initiatives besides strengthening its logistics operations, catering to both business-to-business and business-to-consumer segments.

In 2019, Reliance has so far acquired majority stakes in hyperlocal logistics company Grab, software firm C-Square, vernacular language services platform Reverie, welfare schemes platform EasyGov and software services firm SankhyaSutra Labs

Earlier this month, media reports stated that Reliance was in talks to acquire fashion discovery platform and marketplace Fynd. However, a co-founder of the Google-backed company issued a denial.

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