Bengaluru: Samsung Venture, the venture capital arm of Samsung Group, said on Wednesday that it has invested $8.5 million across four startups in India, marking its debut in the country.

Samsung Venture has made investments in a system apps company OSLabs (Indus OS), speech technology startup Gnani.ai, IoT solutions provider Silvan Innovation Labs and an early-stage computer vision startup, whose name it did not disclose.

Samsung Venture, which invests in early-to-late stage startups that have a strategic fit with the South Korean company’s products and goals, has over $2.2 billion in assets under management, it said in a statement on Wednesday.

OSLabs has developed a curated app store, Indus App Bazaar, which has a collection of over 400,000 mobile apps in multiple Indian languages. Bengaluru-based Gnani.ai works in the space of automatic speech recognition and natural language processing in Indic languages for building voice assistants and for speech analytics. Silvan Innovation Labs provides IoT solutions for homes and enterprises, addressing the issues of safety, security, comfort, convenience and energy management.

“The Indian startup ecosystem has matured over the last few years with early stage companies working on top of the line technology and services, especially in areas like artificial intelligence, internet of things, cloud and other emerging technology solutions as well as services. Samsung is committed to work with and invest in promising Indian startups," Aloknath De, corporate vice president and chief technology officer, Samsung R&D Institute Bengaluru, said in a statement.

The four investments are strategic in nature. Samsung recently partnered with OS Labs to launch the new Galaxy Store, powered by Indus App Bazaar, which brings app discovery and download experience to consumers in 12 local Indian languages in addition to English and offers personalized app recommendations without a mandatory sign in.

Similarly, Samsung’s investment in Gnani’s ASR engine has the potential to power the Korean company’s Bixby regional language service. With an installed base of over 6,000 homes and 12 live communities, Silvan’s products and IoT platform will add value to Samsung’s efforts to have all its products IoT ready by 2020, the investor said.

“As we look to offer the Indus experience to wider audiences, these funds will help us reach our goal of empowering 100 million Indian users with a content and commerce platform in the language of their choice, thus ensuring a truly inclusive digital growth and an enriched user experience for everyone," said Rakesh Deshmukh, co-founder, chief executive, OSLabs.

Innovation is critical to Samsung Electronics to remain relevant in a fast moving tech-enabled products market. In 2018, Samsung invested over $15 billion on research and development through its 36 R&D centres worldwide and also announced it will invest $22 billion over the next three years in areas such as AI, 5G, automotive electronics components and biopharmaceuticals that will drive its future growth. The investments made through Samsung Venture will help it access some of the innovations underway with startups.

Corporate venture funds are not new to India. Several large corporates such as Alphabet Inc (CapitalG), Intel (Intel Capital), Qualcomm (Qualcomm Ventures) and Microsoft (M12) have invested in Indian start-ups. Facebook is collaborating with VC funds to accelerate the growth of the small and medium businesses (SMB) they invest in. As a part of this program, Facebook will work with VC funds with the aim of skilling and mentoring the brands by sharing insights on proven solutions and vertical-insights, among other key learnings.

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