AI to machine learning: RIL's $2-billion bet to be a tech tornado

The companies, in which the group has stakes, straddle varied areas
Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Industries and its subsidiaries have invested over $2 billion in its four-pronged strategy to become a technology powerhouse.

The strategy includes spending over $1.6 billion on buying stakes in 24 tech firms across the US, UK, and India; winning 30 US patents out of the 53 it applied for, mostly in telecom and radio communications; and developing in-house tech in artificial intelligence, machine learning, block chain, virtual reality, big data, and 5G. Also, the ‘Gennext’ programme is providing venture capital support and mentoring to 150-odd companies across fields ranging from finance and retail to e-procurement, logistics, non-invasive testing of fruit quality, and delivering Indian products to global consumers, among others. 

A RIL spokesperson declined to comment. 

The companies, in which the group has stakes, straddle varied areas. There is Asteria Aerospace, which is developing drone technology. There is eDreams Edusoft, which is an education technology company. UK-based Vakt Holdings plans to digitise the global commodities trading market. US-based Ecorithim is working on the Internet of Things. And, at home, RIL also has a stake in SankhyaSutra Labs, a software simulation service company in Bengaluru.


In what is a big push in the telecom space, the group has won patents in the US including for a system to update the status on non-active SIMs and to develop a system and method to determine capacity utilisation in a network in order to provide differential service schemes, according to patent search public data. 

Other patents it has won are for offering a seamless service in a mobile device and making it possible to offer multimedia service to a legacy device. Sources close to the company say winning the patents took between two to four years. 

Having developed its 5G technology in-house, Jio has sought permission from the government to test it. The firm is already part of the Open Source Alliance, which is pushing for open source software and hardware to power 5G networks. As software will constitute 85 per cent of the cost of 5G gear, many global firms believe that proprietary technology, which is expensive because of royalties, should be replaced by open source technology with operators given freedom to buy the hardware as well as the software from any vendor, helping to reduce costs.

In the AR/VR space, Reliance has developed technology to enable these services with a lower bandwidth requirement. Talks, say sources, are underway with its new partner Facebook, which has taken a 9.99 per cent stake in Jio Platforms, to leverage this technology with Facebook’s expertise in areas such as e-commerce, media, travel, and tourism.

In artificial intelligence and machine learning, Reliance’s own R&D teams are working closely with Indian companies Haptik and (in which it has stakes) to work in education, customer care and chatbots, among others.

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