Co to get board seat in the startup backed by Jhun­jhun­wala post its 1st in­vest­ment in In­dia

The Economic Times - - Business Of Brands - Gul­veen.Au­lakh@ times­group.com

New Delhi: Xiaomi has made its first in­vest­ment in In­dia, lead­ing a $25-mil­lion (.`170 crore) fund­ing round into Rakesh Jhun­jhun­wal­abacked Hungama, with the aim to ramp up en­ter­tain­ment con­tent on its de­vices which could be a big dif­fer­en­tia­tor in the crowded In­dian smart­phone space.

China’s largest smart­phone maker, which has in­vested along with Hungama Dig­i­tal Me­dia En­ter­tain­ment’s ex­ist­ing in­vestors Jhun­jhun­wala, In­tel Cap­i­tal, and Besse­mer Ven­ture Part­ners, will pick up a mi­nor­ity but undis­closed stake in the Mum­bai-based ag­gre­ga­tor and pub­lisher of en­ter­tain­ment con­tent. “We’re part­ner­ing for video on de­mand ser­vice in In­dia and in­te­grat­ing it into our plat­form,” said Xiaomi’s head of in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions Hugo Barra.

“With 4G tak­ing off, start­ing this year, video on de­mand is un­locked be­cause the ex­pe­ri­ence gets a huge up­grade when you switch from 3G to 4G,” Barra said, re­fer­ring to the high-speed broad­band ser­vices of tel­cos such as Bharti Air­tel, Voda­fone, Idea Cel­lu­lar and sim­i­lar up­com­ing ser­vices of Re­liance Jio In­fo­comm.

The two com­pa­nies didn’t di­vulge Xiaomi’s quan­tum of in­vest­ment, but the smart­phone maker has pre­vi­ously said that its in­vest­ments could start from $100,000 and go higher, with mainly seed and A level fund­ing in In­dia. Neeraj Roy, CEO of Hungama, in­di­cated that Xiaomi will get a bo- ard seat in the com­pany. “We’d like it…there’s go­ing to be a strong syn­er­gis­tic partnership be­tween prod­uct team, learn­ings, in terms of how we take this for­ward.” Hungama has part­ner­ships with over 700 con­tent cre­ators, and has over 8,000 movies in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Malay­alam, Ben­gali, Pun­jabi and six other In­dian re­gional lan­guages on its plat­form.

The in­vest­ment marks Xiaomi's first in­vest­ment into a start-up out­side its home mar­ket of China, and un­der­lines the im­por­tance of the fast grow­ing In­dian smart­phone mar­ket, which is well on its way to be­come a lead­ing base of in­ter­net con­sumers, with a present base of around 400 mil­lion users. It also comes within a few days of ri­val Chi­nese tech­nol­ogy com­pany LeEco, a new en­trant into In­dia’s smart­phone mar­ket, an­nounc­ing plans to in­vest over $10 mil­lion to set up in-house Con­tent De­liv­ery Net­works (CDNs) in 10 cities across the coun­try by the end of the year. LeEco has al­ready an­nounced part­ner­ships with Eros and Yupp TV for con­tent on mo­bile phones.

Xiaomi will in­te­grate Hungama’s video-on-de­mand ser­vice with the Mi plat­form avail­able on smart­phones and tele­vi­sions, the lat­ter not yet avail­able in In­dia. The com­pa­nies did not di­vulge the time­line of in­te­gra­tion, but said that post that, the plat­form will have some free and some paid con­tent that will be part of the mon­eti­sa­tion strat­egy. China's largest smart­phone maker is repli­cat­ing its home model in In­dia, where it has launched two of its lead­ing smart­phones in 2016, in­clud­ing the lat­est flag­ship Mi 5 last week.

While the quan­tum of in­vest­ment was not made pub­lic, Xiaomi had said its in­vest­ments could start at $100,000 or higher

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