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Business deals

SoftBank bets a bundle on Indian and US delivery startups

Grofers and DoorDash secure nearly $600m in recent funding rounds

TOKYO -- SoftBank Group has poured funds into Indian and American delivery-on-demand startups as part of the Japanese technology conglomerate's larger data-driven growth strategy.

E-grocer Grofers India raised about $60 million in a recent funding round spearheaded by SoftBank. This followed another SoftBank-led round in 2015 that drew $120 million.

Grofers' mobile app lets shoppers have items from their neighborhood grocery stores delivered right to their doorsteps. The startup adds value with proprietary technology that chooses the best routes. It can not only cut delivery times, but also refine the routes mapped out by analyzing the ever-expanding mass of data.

With India's middle class growing, internet shopping and similar services are considered areas with large potential for growth. SoftBank, believing that India's logistics market will develop, has decided to join hands early with promising startups active in this domain.

SoftBank also led a March funding round that injected $535 million into American delivery app provider DoorDash. Founded in 2013, the startup is expanding its restaurant-to-consumer service across North America. Company-registered couriers deliver the food. DoorDash has partnered with household names like Wendy's and Dunkin' Donuts, and there are plans to extend its reach to deliveries beyond restaurant menu items.

DoorDash also leverages data collected on customer preferences and food deliveries to enlarge its footprint. SoftBank will leverage the DoorDash holding into new North American businesses through partnerships with group companies.

SoftBank has concentrated investment funds in next-generation mobility networks, such as that created by Uber Technologies, of which SoftBank is the top shareholder. The Japanese multinational seeks to develop new businesses by getting its hands on basic customer information, shopping histories, preferences and other big data.

SoftBank chief Masayoshi Son has said that automobiles are just one part of the transportation infrastructure and that platforms have more value. This vision is leading the group to position app-based delivery services as a pillar of its vast portfolio.

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