For Arvind Pani of Reverie and Haptik’s Aakrit Vaish, RIL’s investment allows them to continue pursuing their passion and building solutions for a much larger audience that only a Reliance can provide
Unlike Silicon Valley in the US, the Indian start-up ecosystem isn’t quite mature, and an acquisition by a large company or a successful exit of founders and investors aren’t really seen as yardsticks of success. But if the investor is as big as Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), things are certainly quite different. Especially when the tech entrepreneur is kind of given the freedom to continue to pursue his/her passion even much vigorously than before, building solutions for even a much bigger audience that only a Reliance can provide.
That is what the founders of two technology firms – Reverie Language Technologies and Haptik – are trying to do though with financial backing from and direct supervision of the Mukesh Ambani-led company.
“The focus and scope of work remain the same after the investment from Reliance,” says Arvind Pani, CEO and co-founder of Reverie Language Technologies. “However, Reverie would not be constrained by a typical startup-specific resource-crunch. If at all, the change would be in terms of urgency in achieving its objectives like expanding teams, expediting product development and impacting end-user lives.”
Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has made no pretence about its intention to own the entire spectrum of India’s digital ecosystem. Over the past year, it has continued to cherry-pick some of the most promising technology firms in the ecosystem with chatbot player Haptik and regional language technology provider Reverie being the most recent ones to join the club.
Reverie came into existence in 2010, although the founders had been working around the possible challenges that lack of access to regional language technology could cause, as early as 2000. However, the company hogged the limelight when it was selected to join Future Group’s ambitious retail and tech incubator C&D Labs and, prior to this, when it won Qualcomm’s seed investment award in 2015.
Pani, an alumnus of National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, who also worked with chip maker Intel as an engineer before starting this venture, says Reverie continues to work with C&D Labs as the collaboration has been extremely useful in helping them solve many problems.
“For truly democratizing the Indian internet ecosystem, it requires various online services – not just digital entertainment, e-commerce and social networking, but also mass utilitarian services. So, Reverie will continue to work with Central and state governments as well as enterprises across industry segments such as banking, financial services, logistics and supply chain and education as they have so far,” he added.
Just like Pani, Aakrit Vaish, co-founder and CEO of Haptik also believes that far from losing their autonomy, this investment (by RIL) gives the company a huge ability to scale up to millions of B2C customers at one go. Vaishknows very well that only a company like Reliance Industries can give it the scale and scope to build a platform that can be used by millions of people, given its customer reach.
“What we are really looking forward to is building consumer-facing virtual assistant platforms for the 300million-plus user base that Jio offers, given that we have already been touching almost a million enterprise consumers since inception,” says Vaish. who with friend and co-founder Swapan Rajdev, started prototyping the platform in 2012, almost a year before it went live.
Haptik is one of the largest conversational AI platforms with more than two billion interactions till date and amarquee client list that includes Samsung, Coca-Cola, Future Retail, KFC, Tata Group, OYO Rooms, and Mahindra Group. The company focuses on key customer engagement use cases such as customer support, concierge, lead generation and live chat.
Much like Reverie, Haptik was also driven by in-depth understanding of a technology and the need to take it to the masses. The company came in to being around 2013 when the founders realised that the internet users will have to increasingly depend on chatting and messaging for all forms of conversation.
Of course, there are global giants like Google, Microsoft or Amazon who are also taking huge bet on technologies that will empower the internet users of tomorrow. However, Pani of Reverie is of the opinion that these global majors with their pre-packaged services can’t match the scale and diversity of solutions that are required in India. This requires deeper insights which companies like Reverie bring to the table, he says. “If we want mass adoption of online services, user experience for Indian users should not be an adaptation of user experience from other parts of the world. As far as the use cases are concerned, our domain expertise and contextual Indic solutions can build an end to end user experience across verticals.”
In February 2019 itself, RIL has announced around $110 million of new investments/acquisitions in five companies related to logistics, pharma, retail and data management, AI, end-to-end voice technology and simulation services for manufacturing. Over the past five years RIL has invested around $1.2bn to build capabilities across various business.