Source: The Telegraph

India: Reliance Industries Ltd has pumped Rs 100 crore into a US-based technology company, its first such direct investment in a start-up venture.

India’s biggest company by sales picked up a 40 per cent stake in NetraDyne Inc, a San Diego, California- based company that is developing products that may be leveraged by RIL’s telecom venture Reliance Jio.

The investment was done by Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of RIL, which acquired 1.5 crore shares of NetraDyne at $1.0613 apiece.

 Incorporated in Delaware, NetraDyne was founded by Avneesh Agarwal and David Julian on September 3, 2015. Agarwal, a Stanford University graduate, was with telecom giant Qualcomm for years. He was a senior president of technology and business there and also president of Qualcomm India and South Asia. He is the CEO of NetraDyne. The other co-founder, David Julian, who is the chief technology officer of the start-up, was also with Qualcomm.
In a statement to the stock exchanges, RIL said NetraDyne was involved in “high-end technology-driven product development of deep learning solutions and vision-based analytics targeted at industries such as fleet management, automotive, security and surveillance”. Reliance said the entity was in advanced stages of product development even as it was yet to commence commercial operations.

“There could be potential synergies with the telecom and digital initiatives of Reliance Jio when the service is launched later this year,” a source close to the Mumbai-based conglomerate said.

In the past, there has been a buzz that Reliance may enter the cab aggregator space, competing with the likes of Uber and Ola, but the company denied having any such plans.

According to the NetraDyne website, the company is creating a unified vision based on the Internet of things (IoT) platform for processing visual and other sensory inputs. “We are targeting industries such as drones, automotive, and healthcare where we believe vision-based analytics would be a key differentiator,” the website states.

RIL’s investment in the tech start-up would be in two phases. The first tranche was made yesterday, while the rest will be completed by the end of this fiscal.

The company has so far been reticent about investing in start-ups even as it recently set up a dedicated venture to do so. It established GenNext Ventures, which plans to work with start ups. Sources said this RIL arm had invested in three entities. R. A. Mashlekar, who is a member on the RIL board, is the chairman of the venture. The company has created a GenNext Hub inside the Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai for incubating start-ups working on the digital platform.

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