Bharti Airtel Ltd has acquired a minority stake of 8.82% in Bengaluru-based software development startup Vahan Inc, the telecom operator said in a filing with stock exchanges.
The acquisition of Vahan is a part of Airtel’s Startup Accelerator Program to support growth of early-stage Indian tech startups. Vahan, which specialises in providing jobs by using artificial intelligence driven bot (web robot) and a messaging platform, is the first company to join the program.
“Airtel announced the induction of Bengaluru-based tech startup Vahan into its Startup Accelerator Program. Airtel will acquire a stake in Vahan and partner with them in building significant scale to achieve their vision of enabling jobs for the next billion internet users" the release said.
The initiative will give startups early access to Airtel’s online and offline distribution network, deep market understanding and ecosystem of global strategic partners. Airtel has also developed strong in-house capabilities around machine learning and artificial intelligence, which can be leveraged to aid the growth of startups. Startups will also access to advisory services from Airtel's executive team.
“Vahan is is focused on finding blue collar jobs for millions of young Indians in delivery, driving, retail, BFSI (banking, financial services and insurance), BPO (business process outsourcing) and hospitality sectors with companies such as Zomato, Swiggy and Dunzo as clients," the release said.
Airtel's scale and digital capabilities around distribution and payment can drive growth for startups that face multiple challenges in scaling up, said Airtel Chief Product Officer Adarsh Nair.
In a separate development, the Supreme Court upheld the department of telecommunications’ (DoT) definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR), dealing a severe blow to the country’s telecom operators. Airtel alone will have to pay ₹21,682 crore in past dues as per the government’s AGR concept. Shares of Bharti Airtel traded down 1.4% at ₹367.3 on the news.