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From electric vehicles to AI, TVS Motor leads in backing start-ups

Of its four investments, two are in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and machine learning, and in AI

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Among two-wheeler makers, TVS Motor leads in backing start-ups. In the past three years, the Chennai-headquartered entity has invested in four companies. In comparison, HeroMotoCorp had two rounds of funding; Kwang Yang Motor and Mahindra Group had a deal each in this period. 

TVS Motor, through its Singapore subsidiary, has taken minority stakes in start-ups across domains — electric vehicles (EVs), artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things. Others in the segment invested mostly in EV and urban mobility solution start-ups.

Of its four investments, two are in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and machine learning, and in AI. Last week, the company announced investment of $3.85 million in TagBox, a supply chain IIoT and machine learning platform company. 

This was part of a Series-A funding round entirely led by it and by TVS Motor (Singapore). From end-June 2018 till end-March 2019, it invested Rs 72.4 crore in the Singapore subsidiary, according to company disclosures.

Rajesh Narasimhan, board member at TVS Motor and chief executive at the Singapore entity, said: “We evaluated many companies providing IoT solutions in the supply chain and logistics space. And, found TagBox’s product offerings and solutions to be a unique blend of IoT, Machine Learning and close-loop AI.” This investment in Tagbox is part of an initial set being made in strategically relevant digital start-ups.

Last month, it acquired a minority stake (14.1 per cent) in US-based IIoT firm Altizon and in Altizon Systems, the latter an Indian company. TVS said Altizon’s technology portfolio had definite value in driving digital transformation with industrial IoT. “(We) will utilise the strong roster of global industrial majors who are customers of Altizon and gain from enhanced technology offerings,” it explained. 
   
“TVS Motor had immense data from their manufacturing capabilities; the after-market is another part of their business. With the investment in start-ups, they now have access to IoT and machine learning. This could help them rationalise and optimise the entire component supply chain and to improve their manufacturing efficiency. These technologies can be leveraged for group companies as well,” said Kaushik Madhavan, vice-president, mobility practice, Frost & Sullivan.

Venture Intelligence data show TVS Motor invested around $1 million in Ultraviolette Automotive, an electric mobility solutions firm, in December 2017, for a 14.8 per cent stake. Another $1 mn in August 2018 had raised its shareholding. 

In August 2017, the company had announced acquisition of 24 per cent in RentOnGo, a Bengaluru-based start-up operated by Condivision Solutions and an online marketplace for renting of motorcycles.

Major investments from other two-wheeler majors during the period were Hero MotoCorp's investment of $31 mn in electric two-wheeler firm Ather Energy in October 2016 and a $19 mn additional investment in July 2018. Kwang Yang Motor invested $65 mn in Twenty Two Motors, for developing advanced connected electric vehicles using AI and IoT, in October 2018. In June, 2016, Mahindra Partners, part of Mahindra Group, invested in shared electric scooter platform Scoot, in the US.