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Reliance to acquire 87% stake in chatbot maker Haptik
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Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has agreed to acquire an 87% stake in artificial intelligence-based conversational platform Haptik Inc.
The transaction also involves Times Internet Ltd, which was until now Haptik's major investor, exiting the company, according to a press statement.

Reliance said it will pay Rs 230 crore ($30 million) for the initial business transfer from Haptik to wholly owned unit Reliance Jio Digital Services Ltd. 

The total transaction, which also includes a primary investment, is worth $100 million (Rs 688 crore).

Haptik will continue to operate as a separate brand entity with its founding team and the workforce becoming part of Reliance Jio Digital.

“This strategic investment underlines our commitment to further boost the digital ecosystem and provide Indian users conversational AI-enabled devices with multilingual capabilities. We believe voice interactivity will be the primary mode of interaction for digital India,” Akash Ambani, director at Reliance Jio, said.

For Haptik, the investment is likely to help in scaling its operations. It will also provide the company with the resources to develop conversational AI technology across both enterprise and consumer product lines. 

The development comes less than a week after TechCircle reported that Reliance was acquiring a majority stake in Haptik in a $100-million deal.

Reliance Jio is likely to leverage Haptik’s capabilities to embed the target company's virtual assistant across its own 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.

Haptik

The company was founded by Aakrit Vaish, who is the chief executive officer, and chief technology officer Swapan Rajdev 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, Tata Group, Amazon Web Services, ICICI Bank, The Times of India, Viacom18, Dream11, Edelweiss Tokio, Club Mahindra and IIFL.

“We started with the idea that conversational interfaces will cause a paradigm shift in the way people get things done. Over the course, we have built various products across both consumer and enterprise businesses, with the backbone always being a full-stack chat and voice-enabled AI technology platform,” Vaish said.

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

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led 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 drive its digital ambitions.

The investments are likely 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.

Last month, media reports said Reliance was in talks to acquire fashion discovery platform Fynd. However, the Google-backed company denied that any such move was in the offing.

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