Meituan (美团, 03690.HK), one of China’s two largest on-demand local services platforms, has set up a new subsidiary in Chengdu, capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan Province, with a business focus on robotics.
The new unit, named Chengdu Haiqi Technology Co. Ltd, has a reported capital of 100,000 yuan (US$13,990), with Sun Keqing acting as its legal representative. Sun is a vice president of Meituan.
Equity data from Tianyancha, a business registration information portal, shows that the new venture is wholly owned by Solid Bit Hong Kong Limited, a subsidiary of Meituan.
The business scope of Haiqi consists of the design of smart robotics, R&D of IoT technologies, development of AI software and IT security software, information advisory services and Internet data services and so on.
Market pundits speculated that the new firm is the latest move by Meituan to double down on robotics.
Meituan’s foray into robotics started in 2017, when the internet giant established an affiliate dedicated to autonomous delivery.
Three years later, it began to experiment with takeout delivery by means of autonomous vehicles.
Aside from direct involvement in robotics, Meituan also invested in a variety of robotic firms, such as specialized robot builder Robot ++ (史河科技) and cobot manufacturer Fair Innovation (法奥意威).
In November 2021, the IT giant even extended its tentacles beyond logistics and manufacturing into a more sophisticated segment: surgical robot.
It was part of a consortium of investors that poured a total of 500 million yuan into Shenzhen-based surgical robot startup Cornerstone Robotics during a Series B funding round.
In April 2021, Meituan planned to raise around US$10 billion to spend on the R&D of self-driving courier robots, drone-assisted delivery and other cutting-edge technologies and use cases.
Photo courtesy of Meituan
Meituan has already begun commercial operation of takeout delivery via a fleet of its self-developed drones in Shenzhen. The drone recently received an update to the latest edition, with considerably improved specs and functions.
In early December last year, Meituan gave a leg up to its robotics-centered strategy by founding an internal research institute focused on robotics.
Meituan vice president and drone business leader Mao Yinian was appointed chairman and president of the institute, responsible for leading the firm’s development in robotics.
Across China, Meituan is but one of a handful of retail or e-commerce titans that underscored the importance of robot by taking an early move into robotics.
JD.com (京东集团, Nasdaq: JD/09618.HK) branched out into robotics even earlier, running road tests for its unmanned delivery carts as early as 2016.