Chinese e-commerce giant has invested in a lot of lucrative businesses ranging from Snapchat to Paytm. And now it is betting on robotics. Japanese technology and telecom conglomerate SoftBank announced Thursday that Alibaba and contract manufacturer Foxconn will invest $118 million each in its robotics venture.
Alibaba and Foxconn to own 20% each in SoftBank Robotics
The three Asian giants will work together to commercialize SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corp’s Pepper robot that was unveiled last year. Following this deal, Alibaba and Foxconn will each own 20% in the robotics firm, while SoftBank will retain 60% stake. SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said in a statement that the three companies would “build a structure to bring Pepper and other robotics businesses to global markets.”
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@AlibabaGroup and Foxconn will each invest JPY 14.5 billion ($117.8 million) in SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corp.
— Alibaba Group (@AlibabaGroup) June 18, 2015
SoftBank claims its robot has a ‘heart’ that can experience emotions based on how humans interact with it. The Japanese company says the robots will eventually serve as medical workers, baby-sitters, and assist the elderly. Manufactured by Foxconn, it will initially be a household robot. Pepper is set to go on sale in Japan this weekend. But only 1,000 models will be available for early adopters at a cost of $1,600.
Alibaba founder says robots will be as popular as cars
SoftBank was not running out of money. But joining forces with Alibaba and Foxconn will bring know-how, global networks, and strategy. Alibaba founder Jack Ma said robotics will become a critical part of our lives. They will be as popular as cars, he added. Foxconn has invested heavily in robotics to automate its production processes. It also has a partnership with Google.
Pepper is expected to debut worldwide early next year. Masayoshi Son said Foxconn’s manufacturing capabilities will be essential to ramp up production of Pepper. He added that SoftBank would tap into Alibaba’s cloud technology and sales channel. Notably, SoftBank owns 33% stake in Alibaba. Looks like SoftBank, Alibaba and Foxconn have world domination ambitions.
Separately, Foxconn and Alibaba are in advanced talks with Snapdeal to jointly invest $500 million in the rapidly-growing Indian e-commerce firm.