Companies

Reliance to set up ₹5,000-cr venture fund for start-ups

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on September 01, 2016

Reliance industries chairman Mukesh Ambani with wife Nita and son Akash arriving for the company's Annual General Meeting in Mumbai. Photo: Vivek Bendre   -  The Hindu

RIL had set up a venture arm, GenNext Ventures, which is looking to acquire up to 15% stake in young companies that make it to the next round of GenNext Innovation Hub, a start-up accelerator programme launched in partnership with Microsoft Ventures

Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and Chairman of Reliance Industries, has joined the likes of industrialist Ratan Tata and technology czar NR Narayana Murthy by launching a venture capital fund.

On Thursday, Ambani announced plans to set up a ₹5,000-crore VC fund — Reliance Jio Digital India Startup Fund — to boost entrepreneurship in the country over a five-year period. The fund will be used to develop and fund new businesses across sectors such as agriculture, education, health, rural livelihood, and e-commerce.

Major league

Industry experts feel that with ₹5,000 crore in the kitty, Reliance’s fund is one of the largest VC fund in the country, and puts it in the league of Sequoia Capital ($900 million) and Tiger Global ($1 billion).

Currently, the total VC market in India is pegged at around $3 billion, and the new fund will further boost it.

RIL’s telecom venture Reliance Jio and retail business Reliance Retail had together entered the burgeoning e-commerce space recently with its fashion portal Ajio.com, which is being spearheaded by Ambani’s daughter Isha Ambani.

Speaking at the annual general meeting on Thursday, Ambani said: “The fund will encourage young entrepreneurs to build their businesses ground up in India. We will partner with thousands of entrepreneurs, whose digital ventures can bloom on the grounds that Jio is preparing… We are planning to create digital entrepreneurship hubs in key cities and towns of India.”

The announcement comes at a time when India’s start-up ecosystem is going through challenging times with over 800 start-ups folding up over the last 24 months due to lack of adequate funding even as global investors shy away apprehending a bubble that is waiting to burst.

Early this year, RIL had set up a venture arm called GenNext Ventures, which is looking to acquire up to 15-per cent stake in young companies that make it to the next round of GenNext Innovation Hub, a start-up accelerator programme launched in partnership with Microsoft Ventures.

About 11 technology start-ups from sectors such as education, healthcare, transportation, retail, and human resources have graduated from the first batch of GenNext’s accelerator programme.

Anand Lunia, founder of VC firm IndiaQuotient, said as Reliance Jio will bring in lot of low-end consumers on broadband, the company would likely target start-ups and businesses catering to these kind of consumers and not the urban market.

Lack of expertise

He, however, added that while RIL has the intent to fund new business, it lacks expertise that a regular VC has.

Meanwhile, it has got start-ups quite exited. Ambrish Gupta, founder of Knowlarity, said: “The fund gives entrepreneurs both capital and technology to build ground-breaking services at the cost they can afford.”

Reliance Jio will also play a key role in promoting entrepreneurship by providing cheaper internet network and services to entrepreneurs.

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Published on September 01, 2016
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