Every year hundreds of startups are born in India with the hopes of transforming different markets and solving problems for customers across sectors. In 2019 alone over 1,300 startups were added to the bustling Indian startup ecosystem.
We all know that the journey of an entrepreneur is riddled with challenges right from starting a new venture to raising capital to keep it going. According to a survey of Indian executives by the IBM Institute for Business Values and Oxford Economics, despite India’s growing entrepreneurial spirit, over 90% of startups fail within the first five years. If the numbers are to be believed, it can be estimated that out of the 1,300 startups founded this year more than 1,000 won’t make it to the year 2025.
As this decade draws to an end, take a look at 25 emerging Indian startups that couldn’t survive this decade.
Founded by two IIT Delhi graduates Anurag Dod and Gaurav Mishra in 2006, Bengaluru-based Guruji.com was India’s first crawler-based search engine which was developed and designed completely in India for the Indian users.
According to media reports, this unique Indian search engine faced trouble when its CEO Anurag Dod was arrested on the charges of copyright infringement. Guruji.com’s music search, that enabled the users to play music from different websites including the ones which had copyright-infringed material, lead to its downfall.
California and Gurugram-based cloud desktop startup Nivio was founded by Sachin Dev Duggal and Saurabh Pradeep Dhoot in 2004. Nivio’s flagship product was a Windows-based online desktop that enabled users to access a personal virtual desktop from any device connected to the internet.
Nivio’s innovative service offerings accorded it with a lot of success and it managed to partner with Microsoft and Bharti Airtel to expand its services in India. The startup was also termed as a technology pioneer at the World Economic Forum in 2008.
In 2012, Nivio had raised $21 million from Videocon and AEC Partners. Yet, the startup was closed in 2013 without any news or updates.
Mumbai-based social wishlist platform Wishberg was founded by Pravin Jadhav and Kulin Shah in 2011. Wishberg inspired its users to pursue their dreams by enabling them to share their wishes on its platform and connect with the people with similar wishes. Prior to being rebranded as Wishberg in 2012, the startup was known as Tyche’d.
The startup had managed to raise $150,000 in seed funding from Paytm’s Vijay Shekhar Sharma, India Quotient and Uday Sodhi in October 2013. Flush with funding, the startup decided to shut shop in the middle of 2014.
Wishberg announced its shut down through a blog post.
The post said, “In July 2011, we started on this idea with Tyche’d, we failed. Our failure with Tyche’d was disheartening but we restarted our journey with Wishberg. We were humbled with the support we received from users on Wishberg – from being named among the top startups to be featured among the best products.”
Bengaluru-based foodtech startup Etable was founded by Maninder Singh, Bharath Belur, Rohit Iyer and Madiman in 2012. Etable was established as an online community of foodies where the users connected with other foodies and had conversations about food which included reviews, check-ins and recommendations.
Etable managed to raise a total of $200,000 from undisclosed investors across two funding rounds in 2012 and 2013. Post fundraising in 2013, the startup claimed to have over 1,600 restaurants and more than 3,000 registered users.
However, the online food social networking startup failed and was closed in 2014.
Jodhpur-based AI-powered news provider Zoogaad was founded in 2014. The startup offered customized news stories to the people using its AI-powered platform.
Before shutting down in the same year for unknown reasons, the startup had managed to raise $500,000 in funding, according to CrunchBase.
Bengaluru-based foodtech startup SpoonJoy was founded by Manish Jethani in 2013. SpoonJoy worked on a subscription-based model along with the on-demand lunch and dinner model with the goal of becoming a pan-India internet first restaurant.
The startup started operations in 2014 with a funding from notable angel investors like Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal, Tracxn’s founder Abhishek Goyal, Delhivery’s founder and CEO Sahil Barua and Mekin Maheshwari.
Like most online food delivery startups, SpoonJoy was burning through its cash reserves and not even a $1 million funding from SAIF Partners in 2014 could save it from shutting down.
Bengaluru-based foodtech startup Dazo was founded by Shashank Shekhar Singhal and Monica Rastogi in 2014. Dazo, formerly known as Tapcibo, was India’s first curated meal platform which enabled the customers to get fresh meals from its partner restaurants on-demand.
While investors were pouring in money into foodtech startups, Dazo was facing fierce competition from other foodtech startups in the space like Zomato and Swiggy. Amidst fierce competition, Dazo had to burn through its cash reserves in order to expand quickly and gain customers which lead its downfall.
Bengaluru-based foodtech startup Eatlo was founded by Rahul Harisanka and Sai Priya Mahajan in 2014. Eatlo delivered handpicked meals from the best chefs to the customers. According to media reports, the startup claimed to be delivering over 1,200 orders a day.
However, just like numerous other online food delivery startups in Bengaluru, Eatlo couldn’t manage to keep up with its competition and had to shut down in 2015.
Before shutting down, Eatlo had managed to raise nearly $160,000 from marquee investors like Powai Lake Ventures, Tracxn’s Abhishek Goyal and Globevestor.
Gurugram-based hyperlocal grocery delivery startup PepperTap was founded by Milind Sharma and Navneet Singh in 2014. PepperTap was one of the early and successful grocery delivery startups in India at the time with more than 20,000 daily orders across 17 cities.
Operating on a 100% inventory-less model, PepperTap was seeing success among both customers and the local stores because of deep discounts and enhanced sales. However, operating in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, PepperTap found it extremely challenging to keep up with discounts and address the logistics issues at the same time.
This model was eating away at PepperTap’s cash reserves at accelerated rates. The startup was only able to ride through the cash burn in 2015 with massive funding to the tune of $51 million from investors like Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, Snapddeal and InnoVen Capital.
Mumbai-based online supermarket LocalBanya was founded by Amit Naik, Karan Mehrotra and Rashi Choudhary in 2012. The startup offered a range of products across categories including fruits, vegetables, personal care and kitchenware.
The startup had managed to raise more than $5 million across various funding rounds from investors like Karmvir Avant Group, Oliphans Capital and Brand Capital.
While the reasons for the shutting down of the startup were not confirmed, numerous reports cited lack of funds as a possible reason. Considering the competitive nature and low operating margins of the online grocery delivery business, LocalBanya couldn’t manage to sustain its business despite raising a large amount of funds.
Noida-based video microblogging platform Frankly.me was founded by Nikunj Jain and Abhishek Gupta in 2014. Frankly.me became a hit in the Indian market which enabled the users to connect and have live conversations with Indian celebrities and public figures like Delhi’s CM Arvind Kejriwal, others.
In 2015, Frankly.me raised $600,000 in funding from Matrix Partners. According to Nikunj Jain’s post in Inc42, the startup had raised additional undisclosed funding from new and existing investors in 2016.
However, the founders decided to shut down the popular platform weeks after their last funding round. Explaining the reasons, Nikunj Jain said that despite the early success of the platform, Frankly.me had failed to achieve sustainable market fit.
Flush with funds, the startup tried to scale prematurely and tried to solve a lot of use cases too early leading to unsustainable growth. It was the reason the founders decided to pull the plug on their startup after a short but enlightening journey.
Mumbai-based foodtech startup TinyOwl was founded by Harshvardhan Mandad, Saurabh Goyal, Gaurav Choudhary, Shikhar Palliwal and Tanuj Khandelwal in 2014.
Within a period of one year from 2014 to 2015, TinyOwl managed to rake in $28.3 million in funding from notable investors like Sequoia Capital, Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners. Since the foodtech space was rapidly growing at the time, the money was not hard to come by, as was witnessed with other foodtech startups.
Supported by massive funding, TinyOwl rapidly on-boarded over 4,000 restaurants and expanded its services to 11 cities in the country. However, this rapid growth took a toll on their finances and the startup failed to sustain such rapid growth in the long run.
Consequently, TinyOwl was acquired by Roadrunnr in 2016 and the startup completely shut operations except in Mumbai, according to media reports.
Gurugram-based pre-owned products marketplace Overcart was founded by Alex Souter and Saptarshi Nath in 2012. The startup offered an ecommerce platform for over-stock, refurbished and pre-owned products.
Overcart had the distinction of graduating from GSF Accelerator’s first batch. With a presence across 55 cities in India through its walk-in product repair services, the startup noted a steady growth.
While there were a lot of speculations around the reasons for shutting down of the startup but there was no clarity about the reasons.
Mumbai-based home services startup Taskbob was founded by Aseem Khare, Abhiroop Medhekar, Ajay Bhatt and Amit Chahalia in 2015. Taskbob facilitated high-quality professional services including drivers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters and maids on demand.
The startup had managed to serve over 1.5 lakh orders during the two years of its operation before it shut down in 2017.
Taskbob had racked in nearly $6 million across all funding rounds from marquee investors including Orios Venture Partners, IvyCap Ventures, Mayfield Fund and Google Launchpad Accelerator. The startup had also managed to acquire its Bengaluru-based rival in 2015.
The reasons for shut down as claimed by media reports included the inability of the startup to scale profitably due to tough competition and low margins.
Bengaluru-based hotel aggregator Stayzilla was founded by Yogendra Vasupal, Rupal Yogendra and Sachit Singhi in 2005. With a vision of becoming India’s largest marketplace for ‘stays’, Stayzilla was able to add over 8,000 homestays across the country.
While most startups generally fail within the first five years, Stayzilla was an outlier. It scaled new heights in the Indian hospitality ecosystem and established itself as a leader in the industry before it shut down after a decade of effort in 2017.
During the course of twelve years, Stayzilla had managed to raise $34 million across all funding rounds and was backed by investors like Matrix Partners India, Nexus Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital. Prior to shutting down, Stayzilla had raised $13.5 million in series B round from Matrix Partners and Nexus Venture Partners.
Stayzilla’s founder Yogendra Vasupal announced the shutdown of Stayzilla through a Medium blog post which stated lack of local network effects, inability to expand quickly and cost-effectively as some of the reasons for the decision.
Delhi-based data analytics startup PropheSee was founded by Harshil Gurha, Ishaan Sethi and Jitesh Luthra in 2014. The startup enabled brands to discover and analyze data from across different social media platforms in order to create effective strategies through its SaaS-based platform.
The SaaS startup had raised a total of $500,000 in funding from a number of investors from the Indian Angel Network. However, the reason for the startup’s shut down remains unknown.
Gurugram-based foodtech startup Yumist was founded by Alok Jain and Abhimanyu Maheshwari in 2014. The startup offered meals to the customers through its online platform.
The startup managed to raise $4.4 million across funding all funding rounds from investors like Unilazer Ventures and Orios Venture Partners.
Stating the reasons for shutting down in a blog post, Yumist founders blamed their high growth model that lead to high burn rate.
It is evident that too many Indian startups died chasing the high growth in the Indian food delivery space.
Chennai-based Shopo was founded by Theyagarajan S and Krithika Nelson in 2011. Shopo started as an online marketplace for traditional Indian hand-made products by Indian designers. It was acquired by Snapdeal in 2013 and relaunched as a zero-commission marketplace which enabled small and medium-sized businesses to chat, buy and sell.
In 2017 as Snapdeal was fighting for survival in the Indian ecommerce market, it had to shut down Shopo in a bid to cut costs and reduce losses.
Just Buy Live
Mumbai-based e-distributor platform Just Buy Live was founded by Bharat Balachandran and Sahil Sani in 2015. The startup provided a platform that connected the shopkeepers directly with the brands and distributors.
Just Buy Live claimed to have aggregated brands like Apple, Xiaomi, Samsung, P&G, Coca Cola and Oppo, among many others. Furthermore, the startup had managed to raise $120 million across multiple funding rounds from investors like Alpha Capital and Ali Cloud Investment.
According to media reports, Just Buy Live may have been shut down due to its unscalable business model which led to negative cash flows.
Bengaluru-based B2B ecommerce startup Shotang was founded by Anish Basu Roy and Anterpreet Singh in 2013. Through its ecommerce platform, Shotang brought together retailers, distributors and manufacturers to enable them to discover, transact and manage their businesses online.
The startup had managed to secure over $6 million across multiple funding rounds from investors including Exfinity Venture Partners, Touchstone Equities, Patamar Capital and Startup Equity Partners.
Even with multiple funding rounds, the startup could not manage to sustain itself and was shut down in 2018, according to media reports.
Founded by Mahin Gupta, Sandeep Goenka and Saurabh Agarwal in 2014, Zebpay was once India’s largest crypto exchange. The platform enabled users to buy and sell a range of cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple and Litecoin, among others.
Zebpay was among several crypto exchange platforms in India that was forced to shut down after RBI’s circular prohibited any dealings in Virtual Currencies in 2018.
Bengaluru-based online parenting startup BabyBerry was founded by Bala Venkatachalam, Dev Vig and Subhashini Subramaniam in 2014. BabyBerry offered an online platform for new parents that provided holistic child growth and development through various features like digital vaccination chart, health records management and doctor discovery.
While the reasons for BabyBerry shutting down remain unclear, a report by TechCircle suggests that BabyBerry did not have a revenue model to it. Before shutting down, the startup had raised $1 million in funding from a group of angel investors led by Nitin Bagmane in 2016.
Bengaluru-based milk delivery startup Doodhwala was founded by Aakash Agarwal and Ebrahim Akbari in 2015. The startup worked on a subscription-based model and offered various grocery products across categories like baked items, milk, meat, fruits & vegetables and personal care, among others.
According to CrunchBase, Doodhwala had raised over $4 million across multiple rounds from investors like Mumbai-based VC firm Omnivore Partners.
In October 2019, it was reported that Doodhwala had halted its delivery operations across three operational cities including Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune. According to the report, Doodhwala’s delivery operations were handed over to its rival Freshtohome.
Bengaluru-based online lingerie brand Buttercups was founded by Arpita Ganesh in 2014. The startup provided exclusive lingerie buying experience to its customers through its online platform.
Buttercups was backed by some of the prominent angel investors in India including Sequoia Capital’s Rajan Anandan, Fireside Ventures’ Kanwaljit Singh, Anand Chandrasekaran, among others. The online lingerie brand had managed to raise $1 million in funding before it shut down.
While Arpita Ganesh announced the shutdown of Buttercups on her LinkedIn page, she did not disclose the reasons behind her decision.
Mumbai-based Healthtech startup DocTalk was founded by Akshat Goenka, Vamsee Chamakura and Krishna Chaitanya Aluru in 2016. It enabled the patients to connect with doctors while also providing the feature to share medical reports and obtain prescriptions through its mobile app.
This Y Combinator-backed startup had raised $5 million from a range of investors including Matrix Partners, Khosla Ventures, Vy Capital and Altair Capital, among others.
According to media reports, this well-funded healthtech startup failed to pivot its business model and could not achieve the acceleration it needed.
Even with a less than 10% success rate, the Indian startup ecosystem keeps on growing and adding new startups every year. This is a testament to the iron will of the Indian entrepreneurs and their commitment towards their goals. As the Indian startup ecosystem reaches maturity, we hope that the number of failed startups would decline and entrepreneurs will learn not only from their own mistakes but also from their fellow entrepreneurs.