Jio Platforms, the digital arm of India’s largest conglomerate Reliance Industries, which has raised USD 15.7 billion in the last 12 weeks from 11 high-profile investors, has got American chipset maker Qualcomm as its newest backer.
San Diego-headquartered 35-year-old wireless technology giant will invest USD 97.1 million for a 0.15% stake in Jio Platforms through its investment arm, Qualcomm Ventures, Reliance Industries said on Sunday evening in a regulatory filing.
Qualcomm is the third strategic investor to come on Jio Platform’s cap table, after social networking giant Facebook and US-based technology behemoth Intel. The latest transaction values Jio Platforms at an equity value of USD 65 billion and an enterprise value of USD 69 billion, the same as the previous deals.
It is to be noted that Qualcomm and Reliance already have a long-standing partnership across 4G VoLTE and 5G technologies. The latest handshake will deepen the ties between the two giants enabling Jio Platforms to roll out advanced 5G infrastructure and services for its 388 million strong and growing user base.
“Qualcomm offers deep technology know-how and insights that will help us deliver on our 5G vision and the digital transformation of India for both people and enterprises,” Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, said in a statement.
According to Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm Incorporated, Jio Platforms has led the digital revolution in India through its extensive digital and technological capabilities, and he expects Jio to spearhead the 5G revolution as well.
“With unmatched speeds and emerging use cases, 5G is expected to transform every industry in the coming years,” he said. “As an enabler and investor with a longstanding presence in India, we look forward to playing a role in Jio’s vision to further revolutionize India’s digital economy.”
Jio Platforms is an umbrella entity, which Ambani strategically carved out last November. It houses all of the oil-to-retail conglomerate’s telecom and digital assets–Jio Infocomm and its digital platforms like MyJio, JioTV, JioCinema, JioNews, and JioSaavn. It also took under its wings the company’s tech capabilities like artificial intelligence, big data, and Internet of Things (IoT), while subsuming the group’s tech acquisitions and investments such as Haptik, KaiOS, Reverie, Radisys, Den Networks, Hathway Cable, and Datacom Ltd, among others. Betting big on this venture, Reliance has been able to sell its vision of creating a digital India to 1.3 billion Indians, primarily focusing on millions of small merchants, micro-businesses, and farmers.
Currently, Qualcomm is one of the leading technology providers for 5G globally and competes with high profile chip makers such as Huawei, Intel, and AMD. Since its inception, Qualcomm has poured in USD 62 billion in cumulative research and development spend and currently brags of 140,000 patents and patent applications.
Globally, Qualcomm Ventures invests in companies across the world in areas like 5G, AI, IoT, automotive, networking, and enterprise. In India, it has backed firms like MapMyIndia, Portea, IdeaForge, Bounce, Ninjakart, Shadowfax, and YourStory, among others. Interestingly, Qualcomm Ventures’ portfolio company Reverie, which offers a language technology platform, was acquired by Reliance Industries in April 2019.
According to Sanchit Vir Gogia, founder and chief executive, Greyhound Research, a technology research and advisory firm, while Qualcomm has already been working closely with Reliance, the investment strengthens its play in the overall scheme of things. Accelerating the roll out of 5G infrastructure and services is only one of the many reasons for Jio Platforms to add Qualcomm to the list of its backers.
Gogia said Jio Platforms is likely to leverage Qualcomm’s existing partnership with KaiOS, a mobile operating system developer, in which Reliance Retail owns a 16% stake, to expand its smart feature phones and accessories market.
“Qualcomm’s Snapdragon platform can help Jio launch cheap computing devices,” he told KrASIA, adding that the chipmaker can also aid Jio “with wearables, set-top boxes, home automation, IPTV, Wi-Fi, smart cameras, and smart car projects.”
But there is yet another advantage that may turn around the game for Jio Platforms when it comes to its video conferencing service and mobile devices, among other things.
After Reliance officially launched JioMeet, its free video conferencing platform, earlier this month, it faced criticism from netizens for having copied the US-based rival Zoom’s layout and features. And Qualcomm Ventures exited Zoom when the latter listed on New York Stock Exchange last year. Similarly, the US-based firm exited Chinese consumer electronics giant Xiaomi, when it went for an IPO in 2018.
“Qualcomm Ventures’ experience with Zoom, Fitbit, CloudFlare, Mobike, Ring, MI (Xiaomi), and others will add significant know-how to Jio,” Gogia said.
According to him, this will help Jio Platforms build upon similar offerings. Moreover, he said, Qualcomm has a good compute platform for mobile computing devices as well as technology for the fast charging of devices, which is likely to be added to JioPhones.
“In a nutshell, Qualcomm Ventures brings prowess to Jio in latest technologies including networking, computing, devices, and AI, among others, and expertise in scaling and building global startups given its exposure in companies like Zoom, and Xiaomi,” Gogia added.