There is a unicorn rain in India. India has already welcomed 14 startups into the capital pool in the first four months of 2021 and there are more coming in the near future as much of this year’s IPOs will be raised in this country. 2021 will be a year of many firsts for the ecosystem, as it witnessed the entry of the first healthtech unicorn, the first social commerce unicorn, the first infrastructure unicorn, and the first epharmacy unicorn, with BrowserStack becoming the latest to join the club.
In April 2021, eight Indian startups – fintech startup CRED, social media startup ShareChat, wealth management company Groww, messaging platform Gupshup, social commerce startup Meesho, and e-pharmacy PharmEasy – became unicorns. With the entry of Zeta and Moglix into the unicorn club in May, India now has 56 Indian tech startups in the club. In this month, BrowserStack became India’s 14th new unicorn.
Considering the current rate of development, India will achieve more than 100 unicorns by 2023, much earlier than previous estimates from Inc42 Plus in the past.
Among the most prominent sectors in the Indian unicorn club are ecommerce, fintech and enterprise tech. Flipkart, Snapdeal, FirstCry, Moglix, Infra.Market, Udaan, Paytm Mall are a few of the 12 ecommerce unicorns. Paytm, PhonePe, Zerodha, Razorpay, Pine Labs are some of the fintech startups on this list. Among the unicorn startups are Zenoti, GupShup, BrowserStack, Freshworks, Zoho, Druva, Icertis, and others.
Startups That Entered The Unicorn Club In 2021
In 2021, Bengaluru-based insurtech startup Digit Insurance became the first Indian unicorn. The company raised $18 Mn (INR 135 Cr) from existing investors (! PArtners, Faering Capital and TVS Capital) in January, at a valuation of $1.9 Bn.
It was the second external round of funding for the company, the first coming in January 2020. Anushka Sharma and Indian cricketer Virat Kohli invested about $340K (INR 2.5 Cr) as part of the round, which raised $84 Mn (INR 614 Cr at current conversion rate). To date, the company has raised $200 Mn from internal and external investors.
A tech-driven general insurer, Digit Insurance was founded by Kamesh Goyal and Prem Watsa, owners of Fairfax Holdings in 2016. It offers policies on health, autos, travel, smartphones, stores and holiday homes. The company says it recorded a 31.9% growth from March 2020 to December 2020, with 20 lakh Indians opting for its illness insurance product, which offered protection against Covid-19 and seven vector-borne diseases such as dengue, malaria, etc.
As a result of Covid-19, the strain on global healthcare was enormous and shocking and the public was fearful of mass infection. Healthcare providers putting in additional effort to ensure smooth recovery of infected individuals would have contributed significantly more deaths to the global tally. During the lockdown, healthcare became of utmost importance as well as solutions for the sector.
Innovacer came out on top of the Indian startup scene and became the first indian healthtech unicorn. This company provides actionable insights to healthcare providers, hospitals, insurance companies, and other businesses and organizations in western markets, including the United States.
Several governments and private institutions use the product to maintain medical records for more than 3.8 million patients, generating savings of $400 million for healthcare providers. In the next five years, the startup plans to reach 100 million patient records and 500,000 caregivers.
Despite a year in which many startups faced extinction, healthtech companies raised record amounts of funding. Approximately $15.3 billion was raised by healthtech startups in 2020, up 44% from $10.6 billion in 2019. Startups in the healthtech space raised $455 million in India.
In India, social commerce is nascent at this point, but it is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 55%-60% to reach $16 Bn-$20 Bn gross merchandise value (GMV) by 2025. The entry of Meesho into the unicorn club is one of the biggest milestones in the segment, which will have a positive impact on the segment’s growth.
It was founded by IIT-Delhi graduates Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal in 2015 as an online reseller network for individuals and small and medium businesses (SMBs) who sell products within their network through social channels such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram. About 13 million entrepreneurs use the platform, bringing ecommerce benefits to 45 million customers across the country.
It claims to have registered 100K suppliers in over 26K postal codes spread over 4,800 cities, generating income for individuals of over INR 500 crores ($68 million at the current exchange rate). To date, it has raised $415 Mn in funding from investors such as SoftBank, Prosus Ventures, Facebook, Shunwei Capital, Venture Highway and Knollwood Investment.
It competes with younger companies like GlowRoad, DealShare, CityMall and Bulbul, which also have a long list of investors.
Only a few Indian unicorns have maintained profitability from the beginning. Another startup, Infra.Market, joined the club this year due to its profitability and strong growth. Aaditya Sharda and Souvik Sengupta founded the company in 2016 as a B2B online procurement marketplace which leverages technology to offer fair pricing and a smoother procurement experience to its customers.
Platform aggregates demand and connects it to the supply chain, in addition to offering wholesale prices on materials, in addition to affordable credit or financing. This is something that small businesses in the sector may not always be able to access.
Infra.Market had reported a 5.5X increase in revenue from INR 63 Cr in FY19 to INR 250 Cr in FY20. The company reported a profit of INR 1.74 Cr in FY19 and INR 8.59 Cr in FY20. Previously, Infra.Market reported that monthly revenue would reach INR 150 Cr by the end of 2021.
In order to achieve market dominance and join the unicorn club, API Holdings had set out to merge its subsidiary PharmEasy with its rival Medlife in 2020. A unicorn club membership was achieved in the latter part of last year, following the merger. $323 million was raised in the company’s Series E funding round, valued at $1.5 billion. The company is the first unicorn of the Indian epharmacy industry.
In 2015, Dharmil Sheth and Dr. Dhaval Shah founded PharmEasy to serve the chronic care segment and offer teleconsultations, medicine deliveries, and sample collection for diagnostic testing. Over 60K brick-and-mortar pharmacies and 4K doctors across 16K postal codes are connected by it.
Additionally, the platform offers a SaaS solution for pharmacies to use in procurement, along with delivery and logistics support, and credit solutions. The company claims to have served over 20 million patients since its inception.
After rising competition in the segment, the company merged with Medlife. The e-pharmacy vertical had been launched by Amazon and Flipkart, while Reliance acquired rival Netmeds. Only 1mg remained as a competitor, which was also in negotiations with Tata Group for an acquisition. As many as 100K pharmacies are expected to be onboard in the next year, if the competition is not slowed down.
Despite generating only INR 57 Lakh ($76K, at current conversion rate) in operating revenue in 2020, Kunal Shah-led fintech platform CRED entered the unicorn club at a staggering valuation of $2.2 Bn.
Investors like DST Global, RTP Global, Tiger Global, Greenoaks Capital, Dragoneer Investment Group, and Sofina have bet on CRED, a company that offers rewards and benefits to premium credit card users for paying credit card bills. CRED claims to have added over 5.9 million credit card users in the last two years with a median credit score of 830.
The company decided to experiment with ecommerce last year in order to boost revenue and capitalize on its user base. In December, CRED launched CRED Pay, allowing users to use CRED reward coins on ecommerce sites and unlock discounts.
Deals are currently being closed with ecommerce partners such as BigBasket, Dineout and ixigo. The features were developed in partnership with Razorpay and Visa. The payment feature was launched after a pilot project with over thirty merchants, including Vahdam Teams, The Man Company, Epigamia, and Man Matters.
Eight months after bootstrapped Zerodha’s $1 Bn valuation, India found its second wealth management unicorn in Groww. With its technology platform available via mobile application and web platform, Groww allows users to invest in stocks, mutual funds, ETFs, IPOs, and gold. Furthermore, they had launched DIY (do-it-yourself) stock with an easy-to-use interface.
Over 15 million users have registered to use Flipkart since it was founded in 2013 by former Flipkart employees Lalit Keshre, Harsh Jain, Neeraj Singh, and Ishan Bansal. In India, 60% of Groww’s users come from smaller towns and cities and 60% have never invested before, the company claims.
This week, Tiger Global led a $83 million investment round for the company, making it the 50th Indian unicorn. Series C funding was raised by the company last September for $30 Mn. The company intends to use this capital for new product development, talent acquisition and enhancing our financial education platform.
After capturing the attention of users in Tier II and III India, ShareChat has finally found its way into the unicorn club. In one year, the startup’s monthly active user base grew 166% from 60 million to 160 million in the regional language market. The startup noticed that it broke out of its comfort zone in Tier II and Tier III regions in India and gained attention in Tier I and metro cities during the pandemic, without having an English interface.
ShareChat, founded in 2015 by IIT-Kanpur alumni Farid Ahsan, Bhanu Singh, and Ankush Sachdeva, began as a content-sharing tool for WhatsApp with users sharing about 100K content pieces daily. Since then, it has been focusing on the vernacular social media platform. Last year, Moj launched a short video platform after the Indian government banned Chinese apps like TikTok and Likee. There are currently about 80 Mn monthly active users of Moj, which has also gained the attention of the audience.
ShareChat has raised $828 Mn in eight rounds of funding, including $502 Mn in its Series E round. The funding puts an end to speculation about Google investing in Sharechat.
Gupshup, headquartered in San Francisco, is the ninth startup to enter the unicorn club in 2021 after raising $100M in its Series F round of funding led by Tiger Global Management. In the round, the company was valued at $1.4 Bn. In addition, it hinted at a second close with significant additional funds, which will be used to expand the product suite and expand go-to-market efforts internationally.
Gupshup is a conversational messaging platform founded in 2004 by Beerud Sheth that caters to businesses from multiple sectors including banking, ecommerce, hospitality, consumer goods, and many more. Over 80% of the company’s business comes from India, followed by the US and Latin America.
Kotak Mahindra Bank, IndusInd Bank, HDFC Bank, Flipkart, Ola, Zomato, are some of the clients of the startup. To date, the 17-year-old company has raised $150 Mn and closed its Series E round in 2011.
Chargebee, a subscription management platform based in Chennai, became the tenth unicorn of 2021 after raising $125 Mn in its Series G funding round at a valuation of $1.4 Bn. The round was again led by Tiger Global, along with Sapphire Ventures and Insight Venture Partners. The round, which tripped the company’s valuation in less than six months, was also led by Steadview Capital.
Chargebee is an automated subscription billing software platform founded by Rajaraman S, Thiyagarajan T, KP Saravanan and Krish Subramanian in 2010. Payment collection, invoicing, email notifications, and customer management are all automated through integration with payment gateways. Its latest product updates enable clients to optimise revenue operations, compliance and revenue recognition.
The company claims to serve 2500 businesses in 53 countries. Chargebee’s customer list includes access management company Okta, Freshworks, Calendly, Study.com, among others.
Urban Company, a Gurgaon-based hyperlocal service provider, is the latest startup to join the unicorn club, as it has raised $188 Mn in Series F funding and is valued at $2 Bn. Prosus led the investment with participation from DF International and Wellington Management. Urban Company has not confirmed the $1 Bn+ valuation after Series F, but it raised $75 Mn in Series E in 2019 at a valuation of $933 Mn. To date, the company has raised over $370 million.
Urban Company (formerly known as Urban Clap) was founded in 2014 by Abhiraj Bahl, Raghav Chandra, and Varun Khaitan as a home service company that offers beauty and massage, appliance repair, plumbing, carpentry, cleaning, and painting. Currently, it is present in more than 10 Indian cities, along with four international markets: Australia, Singapore, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. During FY20, the company reported revenue of INR 256.4 Cr (IND-AS) and expenses of INR 394.2 Cr, resulting in a loss of INR 137.8 Cr.
It rebranded itself to Urban Company last year to make its name more globally acceptable. Urban Company also rebranded its various verticals as sub-brands of Urban Company. Home beauty was split into women-focused Urban Beauty, men-focused Urban Grooming, and Urban Spa for at-home massages, while home improvement and repairs were split into Urban Cleaning, Urban Repairs, and Urban Painting.
The industrial B2B marketplace Moglix joined the unicorn club in May 2021 after raising $120 Mn in its Series E round.
Falcon Edge Capital and Harvard Management Company (HMC) led the company, with participation from Tiger Global, Sequoia Capital India and Venture Highway. It was valued at $1 Bn.
“Six years ago, we believed in the untapped potential of the Indian manufacturing sector. We had the trust of stalwarts like Ratan Tata, and a mission to create a $1 Tn manufacturing industry in India. “As we enter the next stage of our evolution, we feel this financing milestone is a testament to our journey of innovation and disruption,” said Rahul Garg, founder and CEO of Moglix.
Moglix is an ecommerce platform for different kinds of industrial tools, such as power tools, hand tools, adhesives, safety and security, and electricals. The company provides safety tools, hardware, office supplies, and more to the industrial sector. Its supply chain network includes over 16,000 suppliers, over 35 warehouses and a logistics infrastructure.
It serves over 500K small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) as well as big enterprises such as Hero MotoCorp, Vedanta, Tata Steel, Unilever and Air India. Additionally, it has set up 3,000 manufacturing plants in India, Singapore, the UK and the UAE. Moglix has raised $220 million in funding so far.
Zeta offers a cloud-native neo-banking platform for the issuance of credit, debit, and prepaid products that enable companies to launch engaging retail and corporate products, while providing digitized solutions to enterprises, such as automated cafeteria billing, among others. Solutions are available in India, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Fintech firm claims to record 1 million transactions per day with 500 employees. More than 14K corporate customers and 2 Mn+ users use it currently. In addition to these, there are 10 banks, such as Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank, Yes Bank, Industrial Bank, and HDFC Bank.
Founded in 2015 by serial entrepreneurs Bhavin Turakhia and Ramki Gaddipati. On May 24, 2021, it joined the unicorn club after raising $250 Mn in its Series C round of funding, led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank. In July 2019, the company was valued at $300 Mn in its last round, which had risen 4.8X from the current round.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup BrowserStack has raised $200 Mn. BrowserStack was valued at $4 billion after funding. The funding round made BrowserStack the ninth Indian SaaS startup to join the unicorn club and makes it the highest valued SaaS company in the country.
Funding was led by Silicon Valley investor Mary Meeker’s Bond, with participation from Insight Partners and Accel.
A web and mobile app testing platform, the company claims to have four million developers spread across 50,000 companies, including Google, Microsoft and Twitter. BrowserStack plans to increase its market reach with this funding by doubling the size of its team within 18 months.
BrowserStack cofounder and chief technology officer Nakul Aggarwal said, “We want to be the test infrastructure for the internet, and to achieve this we must scale our operations both in terms of resources and infrastructure.”
The company has increased its team size from 300 to 800 in the last two years and plans to exit 2021 with over 1000 employees.