Bharti Airtel has acquired a strategic stake in blockchain-as-a-service startup Aqilliz under the Airtel Startup Accelerator Program as it zeros in on blockchain technology to boost its growing digital businesses in India.
Singapore-based Aqilliz offers a hybrid blockchain platform, Atom, which integrates differential privacy and federated learning on a distributed digital ledger, which allows brands to create secure and consent-based solutions to engage with customers.
Airtel aims to deploy Aqilliz’s blockchain technologies at scale across its fast-growing adtech business Airtel Ads, as well as Wynk Music, Airtel Xstream, and Digital Marketplace.
The telco last month said that its various OTT streaming, adtech, cloud business, Nxtra data centre business and payments bank business will soon become “unicorns” as standalone businesses in terms of value. A unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion.
“Blockchain technology is maturing and we see its application across areas such as adtech, ‘creator economy’, and loyalty programs,” said Adarsh Nair, CEO of Airtel Digital, in a statement.
“Legacy customer engagement, ad tech and marketing technologies are built for centralised databases,” said Aqilliz founding CEO Gowthaman Ragothaman. “The future of the digital economy is already pivoting to managing value exchanges between brands, platforms and the consumer.”
He added that the technology will enable Airtel to capture and carry this value exchange in the form of consent and provenance across the digital supply chain.
Nair previously informed the local media that Airtel was evaluating around 10 new startups for potential investments via its Startup Accelerator Program.
Airtel’s Startup Accelerator Program invests in early stage start-ups working on technologies that have adjacencies to Airtel’s business offerings. Through the programme, it’s also ramping up investments in technologies like 5G networks, artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform its enterprise and consumer businesses.
As part of its accelerator program, the telco typically acquires stakes in startups and helps them grow to raise their series A funding, and also commits to partnering with them operationally to scale them up.
The program gives startups the opportunity to deploy their technologies and applications at a massive scale, which includes 340 million retail customers and over 1 million businesses. Airtel offers mentorship from its leadership team and access to Airtel’s global strategic partners.