India is expected to have 100 unicorns by the year 2025 but before that here’s a look at 25 startups that changed the decade
With more than 8,900 tech startups and over 25 unicorns, India continues to be the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world. Slow to pick up the pace, India is now home to some of the most innovative startups across diverse domains ranging from ed-tech to health-tech and enterprise to hospitality.
India’s nascent startup ecosystem had less than 10 unicorns before 2015, while it added more than 15 startups in the last two years alone. This transition demonstrates the growth mindset of the Indian entrepreneurs who are spearheading this change.
Throughout the decade, Indian startups have been revolutionalising various sectors and setting the stage for the next generation of unicorns. As this eventful decade comes to an end, it is worth examining some of the most innovative Indian startups that shaped the decade while becoming unicorns in the process.
Bengaluru-based online grocery startup BigBasket was founded by VS Sudhakar, Hari Menon, Vipul Parekh, V S Ramesh and Abhinay Choudhari in 2011. BigBasket became India’s first unicorn in the online grocery delivery space.
It was late in 2011 that BigBasket raised its first funding round worth ₹5 crores from undisclosed investors.
During FY19, BigBasket’s revenue grew by 69% to reach ₹2,380 crores while its losses touched ₹348 crores.
So far, BigBasket has raised a total of $1 billion from investors like Trifecta Capital Advisors, Growth Story, Alibaba, Helion Venture Partners, Paytm and Bessemer Venture Partners.
Gurugram-based e-commerce logistics unicorn Delhivery was founded by Mohit Tandon, Sahil Barua, Bhavesh Manglani, Kapil Bharati and Suraj Saharan in 2011. With a presence in over 2,500 cities across India, Delhivery has completed more than 550 million shipments till date.
Delhivery first raised $1.5 million in a funding round led by Times Internet in 2012.
In 2013, the logistics unicorn launched its pioneering commerce technology suites including Godam and FALCON.
In 2016, Delhivery managed to complete 100 million shipments through its network.
During FY19, Delhivery managed to grow its revenues by 58% to reach ₹1,694 crores from 1073 crores in the previous fiscal. However, the unicorn’s losses nearly tripled to reach ₹1,781 crores in FY19 from ₹684 crores in FY18.
In November 2019, Delhivery last raised $115 million from Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. So far, the logistics unicorn has raised around $935 million across all funding round from notable investors like Nexus Venture Partners, Carlyle Group, Fosun Group and SoftBank.
Mumbai-based fantasy sports startup Dream11 was founded by Harsh Jain and Bhavit Seth in 2008. With more than seven crore users playing Fantasy Cricket, Football, Kabaddi and Basketball, Dream11 has emerged as India’s largest fantasy gaming platform.
After its launch, Dream first raised Series A funding from Kalaari Capital in 2015. In the same year, it also managed to get its first 50 lakh users.
In 2017, Dream11 garnered 1.5 crore users and also became the official sponsor for CPL, NBA and ISL.
In April 2019, Dream11 last raised funds from Steadview Capital which enabled it to become India’s first gaming unicorn. So far, Dream11 has raised $100 million in disclosed funding and is backed by investors like Tencent Holdings and Multiples Alternate Asset Management.
Pune-based data protection startup Druva was founded by Jaspreet Singh, Milind Borate, and Ramani Kothandaraman in 2008. The SaaS-based unicorn offers data protection and information management through its patented cloud architecture to enable its customers to streamline governance, enhance cybersecurity and assist in better decision making.
In 2010, Druva first raised $5 million in Series A funding from Indian Angel Network and Sequoia Capital.
From expanding its product offering to opening headquarters in the US, Druva has been steadily expanding its presence across the globe. In 2019, Druva also surpassed $100 million in recurring annual revenue, according to its website.
With its last Series G round of $130 million led by Viking Global Investors in June 2019, Druva entered the coveted unicorn club. So far, Druva has raised nearly $330 million across all funding rounds from marquee investors including Nexus Venture Partners, Tenaya Capital, Riverwood Capital, Dell Technologies Capital, Orios Venture Partners and Blue Cloud Ventures.
Pune and Seattle-based enterprise contract management startup Icertis was founded by Monish Darda and Samir Bodas in 2009. Icertis offers a cloud-based contract management platform that enables its customers to improve governance, mitigate risk, boost user productivity and optimize ROI.
With a customer base spread across 90 countries and in multiple sectors, some of Icertis’ notable clients include Adobe, Airbus, Airtel, Cognizant, Daimler, Microsoft, and Johnson and Johnson.
Earlier this year, Icertis raised $115 million in a round led by Greycroft and PremjiInvest to become India’s third SaaS unicorn. So far, Icertis has raised $211 million across five funding rounds from prominent investors like Eight Road Ventures, Ignition Partners, B Capital Group and Meritech Capital Partners.
Bengaluru-based EV startup Ola Electric was founded by Anand Shah and Ankit Jain in 2017. Ola Electric is owned by India’s leading online cab aggregator Ola Cabs. This EV startup is Ola’s endeavour to build a greener future.
Incorporated earlier this year, Ola Electric is already a unicorn owing to massive funding of $250 million by SoftBank in July 2019. So far, this young EV startup has already raised $306.3 million in funding. It is backed by some of the leading investment and automobile firms around the world including Kia Motors, Hyundai Motor Company, SoftBank, Tata Sons, Tiger Global Management and Matrix Partners.
Ola Electric has the potential to be the startup of the next decade with its strong backing and ambitious plans. The EV startup is gearing up to put one million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2021. With the Indian government’s target of achieving 30% EV penetration by 2030, Ola Electric is nicely positioned to play a greater role in India’s EV ecosystem.
Gurugram-based logistics startup Rivigo was founded by Gazal Kalra and Deepak Garg in 2014. Rivigo is a technology startup transforming the Indian logistics sector through its innovative relay trucking model combined with its cutting edge technology to make logistics faster, safer and cost-effective.
With a fleet of over 5,000 trucks, Rivigo has completed five lakh trips covering nearly 30,000 pin codes across more than 4,000 cities in India.
Rivigo has continued to grow as it transforms Indian logistics through technology. During FY19, Rivigo’s revenues grew by 42% to reach ₹1,028 crores. During the same period, owing to accelerated growth Rivigo’s losses more than doubled to touch ₹600 crores from ₹270 crores in the previous fiscal.
Earlier this year in September, Rivigo raised $4.9 million in funding from KB Global Platform Fund, SAIF Partners and Warburg Pincus which enabled the startup to join the elite unicorn club. So far, Rivigo has raised a total of $250.5 million across multiple funding rounds.
Faridabad-based omnichannel eyewear startup Lenskart was founded by Peyush Bansal, Amit Chaudhary and Sumeet Kapahi in 2010. Over the years, Lenskart has strengthened its online business and is growing its offline business through a chain of 500 stores across the country.
Growing its revenues for three consecutive fiscal years, Lenskart posted ₹486 crores in FY19 from ₹310 crores in FY18. Furthermore, the eyewear startup remarkably reduced its losses from ₹118 crores in FY18 to ₹28 crores in FY19.
Counting on its robust growth, Lenskart is looking to add another 150 stores by the end of March 2020 and further strengthen its hold in the Indian eyewear market.
Earlier in December, Lenskart raised ₹1,645 crores from SoftBank Vision Fund II. This latest funding pulled the eyewear startup in the coveted unicorn club, making it the newest unicorn in India.
Till date, Lenskart has raised nearly $460 million across all funding rounds from investors like Chiratae Ventures, Kedara Capital, Epiq Capital, Ronnie Screwvala’s Unilazer Ventures, TPG Growth and Adveq.
Mumbai-based digital payments gateway Billdesk was founded by M N Srinivasu, Ajay Kaushal and Karthik Ganapathy in 2000. This digital payments gateway was created with the vision of leveraging the electronic medium to simplify all payments. Today, the platform processes digital payments worth more than $60 billion a year.
Leading the way for other digital payment gateways in India, Billdesk has made life simpler for its customers and clients. Billdesk has a wide range of partners including BSES Rajdhani Power Limited, Vodafone, Idea, Airtel, LIC, ICICI, UTI Mutual Fund, HDFC Mutual Fund, and TATA Sky, among many others.
Billdesk has been consistently growing at a steady pace over the years. It is demonstrated by its massive operational revenue of ₹929 crores for the FY18, which was a 40% increase over FY17. Furthermore, Billdesk also saw its revenue grow by 30% in FY17 and 40% in FY16.
So far, Billdesk has raised a total of $241 million from investors like Visa, Temasek Holdings, TA Associates, General Atlantic, Clearstone Venture Partners and State Bank of India.
Chennai-based B2B SaaS startup Freshworks was founded by Girish Mathrubootham and Shan Krishnasamy in 2010. Focusing on enabling businesses to enhance customer experience, the startup offers a range of SaaS-based solutions including customer support, sales, customer engagement, talent recruitment and marketing automation.
With more than 35,000 paying customers, Freshworks has continued to enhance its products in order to deliver top-quality service to its customers. Counting on its robust growth, reports suggest that Freshworks is looking to go public and might raise its IPO in the next two years.
So far, Freshworks has raised nearly $400 million from investors across the globe including Accel Partners, Tiger Global Management, CapitalG and Sequoia Capital.
Gurugram-based hospitality unicorn OYO was founded by Ritesh Agarwal in 2012. Emerging as India’s leading hospitality brand and the third largest fastest growing hotel chain in the world, OYO has forayed into the international markets by expanding its presence across UAE, Malaysia, China, UK, Nepal, Indonesia and Japan.
In 2018, OYO’s acquisition of co-working startup Innov8 enabled it to enter the coworking space under OYO Workspaces.
With such rapid expansion and growth, it is no surprise that OYO reported a provisional net loss of ₹2,384 crores in FY19 which is a huge rise from ₹360 crores in FY18.
In terms of funding, OYO has secured a total of $3.2 billion across all funding rounds from investors like SoftBank, Didi Chuxing, Grab, Airbnb, Innoven Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital and Greenoaks Capital. In December 2019, OYO raised $1.5 billion from its founder and SoftBank.
Founded by Lokvir Kapoor in 1998, Pine Labs is a retail payments startup that offers last-mile transaction technology to merchants through its cloud-based unified POS platform. With more than 100,000 merchants and over 100 brand partners, Pine Labs has grown its presence across more than 3,700 cities and town in India and Asia.
Wide acceptance of its innovative solutions has enabled Pine Labs to keep growing its revenues over time. During FY18, Pine Labs posted ₹302 crores in standalone revenue which grew by 55% from ₹195 crores in FY17.
So far, Pine Labs has raised a total of $310.8 million from investors like Temasek Holdings, PayPal Ventures, Sequoia Capital and Flipkart.
Headquartered in Gurugram, online insurance aggregator PolicyBazaar was founded by Yashish Dahiya, Avaneesh Nirjar and Alok Bansal in 2008. It allows users to compare and buy life, health or auto insurance policies directly on its website, without any intermediaries.
To build a safety net for more than 250 million households in India, PolicyBazaar has been disrupting the insurance industry for over a decade through its innovative product offerings.
According to an IBEF report, insurance penetration in India is at merely 3.69% as of 2017. Already an underserved market, the insurance sector is poised to reach $280 billion in 2020. PolicyBazaar has quickly emerged as a leader in the space and paved the way for numerous other online insurance aggregators like Acko General Insurance, Coverfox and Easypolicy, among others.
PolicyBazaar’s growth can be outlined from its consistently rising revenues which reached ₹312 crores during FY19 from ₹159 crores in FY18. However, the startup failed to keep its expenses in check which lead its losses to grow tremendously reaching INR 213 crores in FY19 from a mere INR 9 crores in FY18.
In November 2019, PolicyBazaar raised its last round of funding worth $150 million from Tencent Holdings. Till date, PolicyBazaar has raked in nearly $500 million in funding from investors like SoftBank, Tiger Global, Inventus India, Wellington Management, Chiratae Ventures and PremjiInvest.
Bengaluru-based online food delivery unicorn Swiggy was founded by Nandan Reddy, Sriharsha Majety and Rahul Jaimini in 2014. This food tech giant took just half a decade to expand its food delivery network from Bengaluru to over 500 cities across India.
Soon after launch in 2015, Swiggy bagged its first funding of $2 million from Accel Partners and SAIF Partners.
In 2018, Swiggy charted new heights by raising a massive funding round of $1 billion from investors like Prosus & Naspers, Tencent Holdings, DST Global, Hillhouse Capital Group, Wellington Management, Coatue Management and Meituan-Dianping.
In 2019, Swiggy also flagged off its product delivery services ‘Swiggy GO’ and ‘Swiggy Stores’ in Bengaluru. Furthermore, it is also looking to make deliveries through drones.
As Swiggy continues its momentous growth, it also saw its losses pile up from ₹397 crores in FY18 to reach ₹2,363 crores in FY19.
So far, Swiggy has raised a total of $1.5 billion in funding across all its rounds.
Bengaluru-based ed-tech giant Byju’s was founded by Byju Raveendran and Divya Gokulnath in 2011. With over 40 million subscribers and 2.8 million paid subscribers, Byju’s is India’s leading ed-tech unicorn with a valuation of $6.5 billion.
While India’s unicorns struggle to cut their losses amidst rising revenues, Byju’s posted a net profit of ₹20 crores in FY19 from a net loss of ₹28 crores in the previous fiscal. During the same period, Byju’s also managed to nearly triple gross revenues to ₹1,480 crores from ₹520 crores.
Byju’s is a leader in India’s online education space which is expected to reach $1.96 billion by 2021. Flush with funds and churning profits, Byju’s is well primed to lead and disrupt India’s online education market in the next decade.
Till date, Byju’s has raised nearly $970 million from the likes of Qatar Investment Authority, General Atlantic, Tencent Holdings, Prosus & Naspers, Sequoia Capital, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Sofina and Verlinvest. Earlier this year, the ed-tech giant raised $150 million in a round from Qatar Investment Authority, Owl Ventures and SWFI.
Bengaluru-based B2B online marketplace Udaan was founded by Sujeet Kumar, Vaibhav Gupta and Amod Malviya in 2016. Designed for small and medium businesses in India, Udaan has a network of more than 150,000 buyers and sellers across the country.
In November 2016, Udaan first raised $10 million in Series A round from Lightspeed Venture Partners.
With a Series C funding of $225 million from DST Global and Lightspeed Venture Partners in September 2018, Udaan joined the coveted unicorn club with a valuation of $1 billion.
In a short period, Udaan has emerged as one of the most valuable unicorns of the decade. This B2B unicorn is enabling small businesses in India by leveraging technology to connect traders, wholesalers, retailers and manufacturers on a single platform.
Gurugram-based online food delivery giant Zomato was founded by Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah in 2008. Competing with another Food-Tech unicorn Swiggy in the Indian market, Zomato has managed to revolutionize the online food delivery industry and established its market across the country.
Zomato first became a unicorn in 2015, but following continuous losses Zomato soon lost its unicorn title in 2016. The Food-Tech startup has had a tumultuous journey over the decade but with its focus back on the Indian market, the startup is again going strong.
In 2017, Zomato launched its most famous Zomato Gold subscription in India.
Zomato managed to achieve a 40% revenue growth to reach ₹466 crores while cutting losses by 73% to ₹106 crores during FY18.
The year 2019 saw Zomato reach 500 cities across India. Furthermore, Zomato saw its revenues nearly triple as it soared to INR 1,397 crores during FY19. However, Zomato’s losses spiked nearly tenfold to reach INR 1,001 crores in FY19.
Zomato last raised around INR 440 crores in a round led by Delivery Hero. Till date, the startup has raised nearly $760 million from investors like Shunwei Capital, Info Edge, Vy Capital, Sequoia Capital and Temasek Holdings.
Noida-based digital payments giant Paytm was founded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma in 2010. Paytm started as a prepaid mobile and DTH recharge platform and has turned into India’s most valued fintech startup in less than a decade.
After launching the Paytm Wallet in 2014, it has become one of the most used wallets across the country. Over the next few years, the platform expanded into e-commerce through online deals and ticket bookings. In 2017, Paytm became
India’s first-ever payments app to cross the threshold of 100 million downloads.
Today Paytm has around 140 million active monthly users and an overall userbase of 350 million.
During the FY19, Paytm managed to cross $50 billion in gross transaction value (GTV) through 5.5 billion transactions. While Paytm’s parent One97 Communications saw its net loss more than double from ₹1,490 crores in FY18 to ₹3,960 crores in FY19, the company is hopeful about turning profitable and is looking to raise an IPO in the next two years.
Till date, Paytm’s parent One97 Communications has raised a massive $4.4 billion from elite investors like Alibaba Group, Ant Financial, SoftBank, T. Rowe Price, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathway, SAIF Partners, Ratan Tata and Mountain Capital.
Founded by Sumant Sinha in 2011, ReNew Power has become India’s first unicorn working in the renewable energy space. ReNew Power has emerged as a leader in the Indian renewable energy market and driving the country’s transition from coal-based fuels to cleaner sources like wind and solar.
With over 8 GW of clean energy assets and counting, ReNew Power is committed to reducing India’s overall carbon footprint.
Till date, ReNew Power has raised a massive $2.3 billion in funding from investors across the globe including Goldman Sachs, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB), Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Asian Development Bank, Yes Bank and JERA.
New Delhi-based Hike was founded by Kavin Bharti Mittal in 2012. Hike offers Hike Messenger, which is an instant P2P messaging application enabling users to send messages online and offline, hide private chats, share photos, videos and songs, along with numerous other features.
After becoming an instant hit, this instant messaging startup has failed to impress its investors much since its billion-dollar valuation. While it generated ₹50 lakh in operational revenues during FY18, it fell further to merely ₹3.5 lakh at the end of FY19.
Moving away from plain text messaging, Hike revamped its messenger to Hike Sticker Chat in April 2019 intending to provide a personalized chatting experience for young Indian users. It uses smart AI and ML features to offer a more enhanced experience to the users by using stickers as a preferred medium and making communication keyboard-less.
While the young startup has raised a total of $261 million so far, it last raised $175 million from its investors back in 2016. Some of its prominent investors include Tiger Global Management, Tencent Holdings, SoftBank, Foxconn Technology Group and Bharti Enterprises.
Founded by Pranay Chulet and Jiby Thomas in 2008 with headquarter in Bengaluru, Quikr is India’s largest online classifieds marketplace operating across businesses like C2C, Cars, Education, Homes and Services. With over 30 million unique visitors on its platform and footprint across 1,000 cities, Quikr is disrupting the Indian e-commerce market with innovative offerings across categories like Quikr Nxt, QuikrScanner, QuikrServices and Vernacular Support.
Counting on its transaction-led business, Quikr managed to nearly double its operational revenues from ₹88 crores in FY17 to ₹173 crores in FY18, while cutting its losses from ₹324 crores to ₹233 crores during the FY18.
So far, Quikr has raised a total of $424.2 million across 12 funding rounds. Some of the investment giants backing Quikr include Kinnevik AB, Matrix Partners, Omidyar Network, Norwest Venture Partners, Nokia Growth Partners, Warburg Pincus, Trifecta Capital, Tiger Global Management and NGP Capital, among others.
It has been able to keep strengthening its different business verticals by making smart acquisitions over the years. Till date, Quikr has acquired 15 organizations including GoZefo, Grabhouse, CommonFloor, Salosa, among others.
Founded in 2007 by Naveen Tewari in Bengaluru, InMobi was started as an SMS-based search and monetization business called mKhoj. It later pivoted to the mobile advertising platform and rebranded itself as InMobi. The startup has continued its growth story over the years and inspired numerous Indian entrepreneurs along the way.
Till date, InMobi has acquired nine companies including its latest acquisition of the vernacular social media platform Roposo in November 2019.
InMobi which is one of India’s first unicorns counts Softbank, Kleiner Perkins, Sherpalo Ventures, Lightbox and Tennenbaum Capital Partners, among its prominent investors. So far, InMobi has raised over $320 million across seven funding rounds.
Started in 2010 by Wharton graduate Kunal Bahl and IIT Delhi alumnus Rohit Bansal, Gurugram-based Snapdeal is an online shopping marketplace. It offers over 35 million products across 800 categories from more than 300,000 sellers. It was among one of the first startups that were founded early in the last decade and stormed its way to become a unicorn.
While Snapdeal had a solid start during its early years, it lost its dominance as emerging e-commerce players like Flipkart and Amazon started to control the Indian eCommerce market. As Snapdeal saw its losses skyrocket 75% to ₹5,142 crores during FY17, there were numerous news reports talking about the death of this unicorn. Post a disastrous performance during FY17, Snapdeal managed to cut its losses significantly to ₹613 crores in FY18 and further down to ₹186 crores in FY19.
Owing to its invigorated growth, Snapdeal managed to raise an undisclosed amount of funds from Anand Piramal in July 2019. So far, Snapdeal has raised $1.8 billion in funding from marquee investors like Nexus Venture Partners, Alibaba Group, Foxconn Technology Group, Ratan Tata, eBay, BlackRock, Temasek Holdings, Brand Capital, and PremjiInvest.
As far as acquisitions are concerned, Snapdeal has slowed down since 2017. Its rapid growth phase saw it acquire 12 startups including GoJavas, Wishpicker, Doozton, TargetingMantra, and Fashiate, among others.
Founded by IIT Bombay graduates Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati in 2010, Ola Cabs has emerged as India’s leading ride-sharing startup in the decade. Starting as an online cab aggregator from its headquarters in Bengaluru, this Indian unicorn has driven its way across India, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
With its presence in India and the international markets, Ola boasts of having a network of over 1.5 million drivers across 250 cities. Ola also forayed into electric mobility space with Ola Electric Mobility which has an ambitious plan to put one million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2021.
Riding on the back of its tremendous growth, Ola managed to grow its operational revenue from ₹1,847 crores in FY18 to ₹2,543 in FY19. Furthermore, Ola also managed to marginally trim its losses from ₹2,842 crores in FY18 to ₹2,593 crores in FY19.
Over the years, Ola has raised a mammoth $3.8 billion from its investors. Some of its most active investors include Tiger Global Management, SoftBank, Steadview Capital, Sachin Bansal, DST Global, Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners and Matrix Partners, among many others.
Bengaluru-based e-commerce giant Flipkart was founded by former Amazon employees Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal in 2007. Flipkart has had one of the most interesting journeys through the decade from foraying into new business segments to the exit of both the founders.
In 2010, Flipkart first made its first acquisition with weRead.
In 2014, Flipkart acquired Myntra for $300 million. Later in 2016, Flipkart acquired another fashion etailer Jabong through Myntra in a deal worth $70 million. Myntra and Jabong have emerged as key sale drivers for the Indian e-commerce unicorn.
Acquisition of PhonePe by Flipkart in 2016 enabled it to strengthen its payment platform. Through PhonePe, Flipkart also competes with Paytm in the digital payments space.
In 2018, US-based retail behemoth Walmart acquired Flipkart in a massive $16 billion deal which shook the Indian startup ecosystem. This deal provided massively profitable exits for both the founders and several other investors.
Flipkart continues to expand its presence in India through acquisitions and expansions across the country. India’s leading e-commerce startup saw its revenues soar to ₹ 43,615 crores in FY19, growing by 42% from the previous fiscal.
Till date, Flipkart has raised $7.7 billion across funding rounds from marquee investors like Tiger Global Management, Naspers, ICONIQ Capital, Accel Partners, DST Global, SoftBank, Sofina, Morgan Stanley and Steadview Capital.
These startups are a testament to the rapid growth experienced by the Indian startup ecosystem over the last couple of years. With the close of this decade, we are entering into a new decade which offers vast opportunities across new sectors and markets for budding Indian entrepreneurs.
The future of the Indian startup ecosystem looks bright with the shine of these unicorns. According to Nasscom’s latest report titled ‘Indian Tech Startup Ecosystem 2019’, India is expected to have 100 unicorns by the year 2025. There are more reasons for Indian entrepreneurs to look forward to the next decade.