SoftBank Boosts AI Focus with Indian Data Centre and Robotics Investments

SoftBank Boosts AI Focus with Indian Data Centre and Robotics Investments
SoftBank, the Japanese technology conglomerate, is considering investments in Indian data center and industrial robotics companies, aiming to increase its focus on the foundational infrastructure of artificial intelligence (AI). Sources suggest that SoftBank is assessing potential deals in these sectors and could allocate between $75 million to $150 million per deal once negotiations progress.
"SoftBank is looking at AI use cases with large market opportunities. They are chasing two themes in India currently data centres and industrial robotics", A source familiar with the situation has confirmed this information. Although specific details on the potential investments were not disclosed, one of the sources mentioned that they could involve newly established data center ventures owned by a major corporation or a manufacturing facility utilizing automation and AI technologies.
By the end of March 2024, SoftBank has allocated $5 billion towards investments concentrated in rapidly expanding sectors such as logistics, robotics, and autonomous driving. Noteworthy recent investments comprise the establishment of Green Box, a collaboration with robotics firm Symbotic, which inaugurated its inaugural automated warehouse in California. Additionally, SoftBank participated in a funding round exceeding one billion dollars for Wayve, a company specializing in autonomous driving technology.
SoftBank's India AI play ties in with its global shift to AI and chips, even as the mega investor has increased the pace of exiting its Vision Fund holdings in areas like e-commerce and fintech. While the conglomerate made investments and commitments of around $9 billion in AI-related companies in FY24, it sold holdings worth $22 billion during the period. After playing ‘defence’ for some time by slowing its speed of making fresh bets, SoftBank said mid-last year that it is looking to take a more active investing role again, particularly by focusing on AI.
During an event in October 2023, SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son expressed his belief that artificial general intelligence (AGI), surpassing human intelligence by tenfold, will be developed within the next decade. Additionally, Son introduced the concept of Artificial Superintelligence, which he suggested would be 10,000 times more potent than human intelligence and could become a reality within the following two decades.
SoftBank's fresh AI-related investments would also end a hiatus of about two years in the conglomerate's frenetic deal-making in the country. To be sure, it pumped about $11 billion into Indian startups between late 2018 and mid-2022 and has reported exits worth around $6.5 billion from those investments. Although it is looking to double down on existing portfolio companies such as Meesho, the company’s move to scout for AI infrastructure companies here underlines a growing global sentiment of looking at India as an exporter of tech rather than just a large market ripe for capture.
SoftBank has historically made significant investments in India's consumer internet and Software as a Service (SaaS) sectors. While four of its portfolio companies, namely Zomato, PB Fintech, Paytm, and Delhivery, are publicly listed, the company is currently gearing up to list the next batch of firms from its portfolio. This upcoming group includes Firstcry, Ola Electric, and Swiggy.