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Airtel launches startup accelerator programme; acquires stake in Vahan

Bharti Airtel on Friday launched a programme to support and accelerate the growth of early-stage Indian tech startups and said that it has acquired stake in Bengaluru-based startup Vahan.

“With its Startup Accelerator Programme, Airtel aims to support the creation of a vibrant startup ecosystem that contributes to Digital India,” the company said in a statement.

Airtel’s Startup Accelerator Programme will enable early-stage startups get access to the company’s online and offline distribution network, deep market understanding, and ecosystem of global strategic partners.

“Today, early-stage startups in India have some very exciting ideas but face multiple challenges in scaling up. With Airtel’s scale and digital capabilities around distribution and payments, we have the potential to drive accelerated growth of emerging startups that are solving hard problems,” said Adarsh Nair, Chief Product Officer of Bharti Airtel.

Airtel has also developed in-house capabilities around machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), which could be leveraged to aid the growth of startups. The statement added that the startups will also get access to advisory services from Airtel’s executive team.

The company also announced the induction of Bengaluru-based tech startup Vahan into its Startup Accelerator Programme.

“Airtel will acquire a stake in Vahan and partner with them in building significant scale to achieve their vision of enabling jobs for the next billion internet users,” said the statement.

Founded in 2016, and backed by Y Combinator and Khosla Ventures, Vahan leverages advanced AI to match job seekers with employers.

It is focussed on finding blue-collar jobs for millions of young Indians in delivery, driving, retail, BFSI, BPO, and hospitality sectors. The startup’s clients include Zomato, Swiggy, and Dunzo, among others.

Earlier this month, Vahan had raised a fresh round of undisclosed funding from Khosla Ventures, Founders Fund, and Pioneer Fund.

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