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We can’t get out of 2020 fast enough. A year when everything as we knew it was upended and most of us were stopped in our tracks by a tiny microbe that wrecked lives and businesses. Startups, too, found themselves facing unprecedented challenges but as we head into 2021, optimism and hope are riding high. Multiple home-grown companies have announced plans to go public, as the rest try to bring sanity to the ecosystem by targeting profitability.
We asked experts what 2021 had in store for Indian startups? Here is what they said:
Karan Sharma, Executive Director, Co-Head – Digital and Technology Investment Banking, Avendus Capital
The year 2020 has been a defining year for the Indian tech space. It brought to the forefront the inherent scalability of tech businesses and how consumers and businesses can effectively leverage digital channels. Further, it helped startups take a deep look at the business model they want to build for the long haul. They could reset customer expectations around discounting and incentives, experiment with effective modes of marketing, cut long-pending flab in the system and steer the ship towards sustainable economics.
We expect companies to continue on this path of profitability in 2021, as there are a significant number of companies that are well poised to go public, most of them on domestic stock exchanges, in the next 12-24 months. Quite a few e-commerce market leaders, payments and logistics enablers, online services companies and enterprise-focused businesses have turned operationally profitable and we expect them to continue that run through 2021. Indian public markets have always rewarded profitability higher than growth, and these tech leaders will certainly look to tap into that theme.
Hemant Vishnoi, Co-Founder, Enkash
While tumultuous 2020 is coming to an end, I believe 2021 would be an incredibly positive year for the Indian startups. Funds flow to India remains strong, the stock market has shown tremendous resilience and by all indications and projections, the Indian economy is looking to grow at more than 8 percent in 2021.
The uncertainties of 2020 have made more and more start-ups to be efficient with their cash/investors’ money. In terms of investments, clear favourites for PE firms in 2020 were startups showing scalability or which were category creators.
These trends are likely to continue in 2021. However, accelerated exits among 2010-13 vintage PE investments would see increasing numbers of IPOs as well as M&A activities. A strong equity market with huge interest, from both foreign and domestic investors, provides the right backdrop for these exits in 2021.
Pankaj Vermani, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Clovia
2020 has been the year of resurrections, reinvention and pivots for businesses across domains. Every single startup has had to look into its business model, get leaner and get smarter. Most of these changes rejigged the organisation's DNA and are here to stay. 2021 starts with startups being more intelligent with their money and attuned to their KPIs. This trend is likely to stick and get more emphatic in the coming year.
Listing, of course, needs scale and not many of them will be ready but in the next two-three year horizon, we will be seeing a lot more listing activities, adding a further boost to the startup ecosystem.
Pravin Agarwala, Co-founder CEO, Betterplace
The pandemic has no doubt put profitability at the centre stage while growth being the DNA. Both the founders and investors have sharpened focus on the financial health of the business so that the cash runway is extended. While some of the large and heavily funded startups would look at listing. We also expect consolidation in certain mature sectors.
Sumit Agarwal, founder, Vyapar Tech Solutions
2021 will be a very interesting year. There will definitely be lot of investment coming in the Indian startup ecosystem from global players. I personally don't think that mindset will change drastically towards profitability or listings but 2020 has taught people to be more prepared. So, in my opinion the startup ecosystem will try to be more prepared to sustain and live through these COVID-like situations.
Profitability and stock listings is a mindset that every startup founder doesn't have. Different founders startup for different reasons, example FOMO, an interesting problem, quick money, name and fame, etc. I have seen very few founders who build for IPO and VCs are completely comfortable with that, as their main purpose is to multiply wealth, whether it is through M&A or listings.