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Your guide to India’s startup unicorns of 2021

2021 produced 43 Indian unicorns, valued at over a billion dollars. Do you remember which companies made the cut? Worry not, we have got you covered

Mumbai / December 31, 2021 / 10:12 AM IST

Unicorns are everywhere. These privately-held billion dollar companies, named so for their rarity, are not so rare anymore. 52 weeks of 2021 saw 43 new startup unicorns in India. In fact, one zany week in April saw six! Unicorns, more than anything else, represent the Indian startup ecosystem, the opportunity, the hits, risks and what people are excited about.

These 43 unicorns in 2021 are more than the 30 odd unicorns created in the entire history of the Indian startup scene. But who are these companies? What do they do? Who uses them? Moneycontrol answers your questions

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Software-as-a-service (SaaS)

Chargebee-Founded by Krish Subramanian, Rajaraman Santhanam, KP Saravanan, and Thiyagarajan T in 2011, Chargebee runs a software platform to manage subscriptions and billings for businesses. Its clients include Freshworks and Calendly.

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Investors: Accel, Steadview Capital, Insight Partners, Tiger Global

Current valuation: $3.5 billion

Innovaccer- Founded by Abhinav Shashank, Kanav Hasija and Sandeep Gupta in 2014, Innovaccer millions of data points available in the healthcare industry — patient profiles, risk factors, types of disease, etc — and channel that data effectively to digitize solutions for hospitals, clinics and patients.

Investors: Lightspeed, B Capital, Mubadala, Tiger Global, Steadview Capital

Current valuation: $3.2 billion

Mindtickle- Mindtickle, founded in 2011 by Krishna Depura, Mohit Garg, Deepak Diwakar and Nishant Mungali, helps companies build sales capabilities including training, onboarding, working on each aspect of sales, practicing and improving it using technology.

Investors: Accel, Norwest, SoftBank, Qualcomm Ventures

Current valuation- $1.1 billion

Zeta- Founded by serial entrepreneur Bhavin Turakhia, Zeta wants to help banks elevate their backend technology, offering a seamless experience to create accounts, use debit and credit cards, avail a loan or overdraft, among other things.

Investors: SoftBank, Sodexo

Current valuation: $1.4 billion

BrowserStack- Founded by Ritesh Arora and Nakul Aggarwal in 2011, software testing platform BrowserStack was bootstrapped until a few years ago. Its growth has exploded more recently, also driving investor interest. Software testing and developer tools have also become more commonplace for venture investors.

Investors: Accel, BOND Capital, Insight Partners

Current valuation: $4 billion

Gupshup- Founded in 2004 by Beerud Sheth, Gupshup is a messaging platform that helps businesses and customers interact with ease using mediums such as SMS and WhatsApp. Over 80 percent of the business comes from India followed by the US and Latin America.

Investors: Tiger, Fidelity, Think Investments

Current valuation: $1.4 billion

Business-to-business

Infra.market- Founded by Souvik Sengupta and Aaditya Sharda in 2016, Infra.market sells cement, fly ash, stone materials etc on its B2B platform. It became a unicorn barely 15 months after raising its first VC funding round.

Investors: Accel, Nexus VP, Tiger Global, Sistema Asia

Current valuation: $4.5 billion

OfBusiness- Founded by Asish Mohapatra and Ruchi Kalra in 2015, OfBusiness runs a B2B ecommerce marketplace and an NBFC which lends these customers. Mohapatra believes that the more unsexy a business, the more successful it will be.

Investors: Matrix Partners India, Norwest VP, Tiger, SoftBank, Falcon Edge Capital

Current valuation: $5 billion

Zetwerk- Founded by Amrit Acharya, Srinath Ramakkrushnan, Rahul Sharma and Vishal Chaudhary in 2018, Zetwerk provides manufacturing services such as fabrication, machining, casting and forging from small and medium companies and connects them to mid-to-large OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and engineering, procurement and construction firms- earlier in India and South-East Asia and now in North America as well.

Investors: Accel, Sequoia India, Greenoaks Capital, D1 Capital, Kae Capital

Current valuation: $1.3 billion

Moglix- Founded by former Google executive Rahul Garg Moglix is an industrial goods marketplace, hammers, drills, wrenches, office stationery and supplies, hospital supplies and automotive supplies.

Investors: Accel, Sequoia India, Tiger Global, Falcon Edge Capital

Current valuation: $1 billion

Blackbuck- BlackBuck helps shippers organize trucks, have real-time visibility and have end-to-end freight management via an online platform. It was founded in 2015 by Rajesh Yabaji, Chanakya Hridaya and Ramasubramaniam B.

Investors: Accel, Sequoia, B Capital, Goldman Sachs, Tribe Capital

Valuation: $1.02 billion

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Ecommerce

Mensa Brands- Founded by former Myntra CEO Ananth Narayanan, Mensa became India’s fastest unicorn in six months since founding. Mensa operates along US-based Thrasio’s model, where it is acquiring fast-growing ecommerce sellers across categories and helps them turbocharge growth

Investors: Accel, Norwest, Falcon Edge, Prosus

Current valuation: $1 billion

GlobalBees- Spun off from ecommerce unicorn FirstCry, GlobalBees is another Thrasio-style startup, whose acquisitions include TheBetterHome, Prolixr, andMe among others. It is run by former Edelweiss executive Nitin Agarwal and FirstCry founder Supam Maheshwari

Investors: Lightspeed, SoftBank, PremjiInvest, Chiratae, Steadview

GoodGlamm Group- Founded by Darpan Sanghvi and started as beauty platform MyGlamm in 2015, this company made acquisitions the bedrock of its strategy. Buying The Moms Co, Babychakra, Popxo and MissMalini among others, it is eyeing a content to commerce strategy, where customers consume content and then become paying customers.

Investors: Prosus, Warburg Pincus, Bessemer VP, Accel

Current valuation: $1.2 billion

Meesho- Founded by Vidit Aatrey and Sanjeev Barnwal in 2015, Meesho started out as a reseller-led social commerce platform, but has this year pivoted to mainstream ecommerce, directly competing with Flipkart and others.

Investors: Sequoia, B Capital, Elevation, SoftBank, Facebook, Prosus, Fidelity

Current valuation: $4.9 billion

Grofers- Grofers has been one of India’s first online grocery firms, started in the 2014-15 boom by Albinder Dhindsa, which led to a bloodbath among many other well-funded but poorly-run startups. With an investment from listed Zomato, Grofers also rebranded to Blinkit, focusing exclusively on 10 minute delivery.

Investors: Zomato, Sequoia, SoftBank

Current valuation: $1 billion

Licious- Meat delivery firm Licious, founded by Vivek Gupta and Abhay Hanjura in 2015, took off during the pandemic. It is now going deeper into ready-to-eat products and building an offline presence.

Investors: Multiples, Temasek, 3one4 Capital, Vertex, Bertelsmann

Valuation: $1.05 billion

Online education

Eruditus- Executive education platform Eruditus started out as an offline facility in 2010, but Ashwin Damera and Chaitanya Kalipatnapu shifted it online in 2015, the company’s tipping point. It has partnerships with Columbia University, INSEAD, Harvard and MIT among others

Investors: Sequoia, Prosus, SoftBank, Accel, CPPIB, Chan Zuzkerberg Initiative

Current valuation: $3.2 billion

UpGrad- Founded by entertainment entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala, UpGrad works in the executive education and upskilling space, tying up with IIT-Madras and Duke University among others

Investors: Temasek, IFC, IIFL

Current valuation: $1.2 billion

Vedantu- Online learning platform Vedantu was founded by former teachers Vamsi Krishna, Pulkit Jain, Anand Prakash and Saurabh Saxena in 2014. It provides live classes in the K12 space in addition to entrance exams. It has over 35 million monthly unique visitors, of which about 5 lakh are paying customers.

Investors: Accel, Tiger, GGV Capital, WestBridge, Coatue

Valuation: $1 billion

Fintech

Digit Insurance- Founded by insurance veteran Kamesh Goyal in 2016, Digit provides auto, health, travel and other forms of insurance. It had a revenue of Rs 1247 crore and losses of Rs 193 crore in FY20

Investors: A91 Partners, Faering Capital, Fairfax Holdings, TVS Capital

Current valuation: $3.5 billion

Acko Insurance- Founded by former Coverfox CEO Varun Dua in 2016, Acko provides auto insurance and microinsurance for tech gadgets, travel and appliances. Its newly launched health insurance vertical already accounts for 20% of its revenue in a year.

Investors: Accel, Elevation, Multiples PE, General Atlantic, Amazon, CPPIB, Lightspeed

Current valuation: $1.2

CRED- Kunal Shah’s second venture, credit card payments platform CRED is one of India’s most-talked-about companies, for the right and wrong reasons. It has forayed into lending and is eyeing acquisitions for a direct-to-consumer play.

Investors: Sequoia, Tiger, Falcon Edge, DST Global

Current valuation: $4 billion

Groww- Founded by Lalit Keshre, Harsh Jain, Ishan Bansal and Neeraj Singh in 2016, Groww is an investment platform which became popular for online mutual fund investing. It also offers investing in stocks, gold and wants to diversify into derivatives

Investors: Sequoia, Tiger, Y-Combinator

Current valuation: $3 billion

BharatPe- Founded by Ashneer Grover, Shashvat Nakrani and Bhavik Koladiya in 2018, BharatPe started as an offline merchant QR-code aggregator but has since been lending to these merchants and even got a banking license by acquiring distressed PMC Bank.

Investors: Sequoia, Tiger, Ribbit Capital, Coatue Management

Current valuation: $3 billion

Five Star Business Finance- This is one of 2021’s most unique unicorns. A 30-year-old institution technically, this traditional NBFC has taken off in the last 7 years and has filed its draft documents for an IPO early next year. Five Star has kept its distance from the digital lending frenzy and built a profitable loan book of over Rs 3000 crore.

Investors: Sequoia, Matrix, KKR, TPG, Norwest

CoinDCX- Crypto exchange CoinDCX became India’s first crypto unicorn in a year when the digital currency truly became mainstream. Founded by Sumit Gupta and Neeraj Khandelwal in 2018, its unicorn round was a sign of things to come.

Investors: B Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Polychain Capital

Current valuation: $1.1 billion

CoinSwitch Kuber- Founded by Ashish Singhal, Vimal Sagar Tiwari and Govind Soni in 2017, this startup became India’s second crypto unicorn. CoinSwitch recently said it wants to transition from crypto to a full-stack wealth management platform, along the lines of Zerodha or Groww.

Investors: Sequoia, Tiger, Andreessen Horowitz

Current valuation: $2 billion

Slice- Founded by Rajan Bajaj in 2016, Slice is a new age alternative to credit cards, focused on millennials and allows customers to pay for their purchases in three installments. The company's card issuance spiked from 20,000 in January 2021 to 200,000 in November.

Investors: Blume Ventures, Tiger, Insight Partners

Current valuation: $1 billion

Mobikwik- Founded in 2009 by husband-wife duo Bipin Preet Singh and Upasana Taku, digital payments and Buy-Now-Pay-Later BNPL firm Mobikwik had a topsy turvy 2021- becoming a unicorn, filing for an IPO, watching larger rival Paytm’s IPO flop, and then postponing its own IPO

Investors: Sequoia, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Bajaj Finance, Cisco.

Current valuation: $1 billion

Upstox- Online stock trading platform Upstox is in advanced talks to close a round of funding, as per media reports. Its valuation has been pegged at about $3-3.5 billion. Founded by brothers Ravi and Raghu Kumar along with Shrinivas Vishwanath, it has capitalized on the stock investing frenzy, particularly from young urban Indians during the pandemic.

Investors: Kalaari Capital, Tiger Global, Ratan Tata

Valuation: $3.3.5 billion

Automobile

Spinny- Founded by Niraj Singh in 2015, online used car retailer Spinny was a somewhat late entrant to the digital car-buying market, but people say its focus on customer experience has helped it stand out. It is a buyer focused platform for used cars.

Investors: Blume, Accel, Elevation, Tiger, General Catalyst

Valuation: $1.8 billion

CarDekho- Jaipur-based CarDekho runs a seller-focused platform for new and used cars. Founded by Amit Jain in 2008, it buys cars in over 100 markets and has over 3,000 cars on its platform for purchase, with an annual revenue run rate of $100 million. It plans to list on stock exchanges soon.

Investors: Sequoia, LeapFrog Investments, Mirae

Valuation: $1.2 billion

Droom- Founded in 2015 by former ShopClues co-founder Sandeep Aggarwal, automotive marketplace Droom is looking to go for an IPO soon and has already filed its draft documents with market regulator SEBI, waiting for approval.

Investors: Lightbox Ventures, 57 Stars, Seven Train Ventures

Valuation: $1.2 billion

Health and wellness

Cure.fit- Founded by former Myntra and Flipkart leaders Mukesh Bansal and Ankit Nagori, Cure.fit started a series of gyms across the country, supplementing it with healthy food and workout routines. The food business was spun off later, even as Cure.fit struggled during the pandemic, but has bounced back this year.

Investors: Accel, Kalaari, Zomato, Temasek

Current valuation: $1.5 billion

Pristyn Care- Healthcare is one of the areas where tech startups have not been able to make much of a dent. But Pristyn Care, started in 2018 by Harsimarbir Singh, Garima Sawhney and Vaibhav Kapoor wants to change this, with a tech platform that utilizes the capacity of smaller hospitals for surgeries. It was reportedly in talks to acquire Practo.

Investors: Sequoia, Tiger, Greenoaks

Valuation: $1.4 billion

PharmEasy- This online pharmacy had a particularly eventful 2021, its valuation surging from $800 million to $5.5 billion, raising over a billion dollars, acquiring offline listed diagnostics company Thyrocare for a billion dollars and filing its documents to go public. Its founders are Siddharth Shah, Dhaval Shah, Dharmil Sheth, Hardik Dedhia and Harsh Parekh.

Investors: Bessemer, Orios VP, Eight Roads, Prosus, CDPQ, Tiger, B Capital, Temasek

Current valuation: $5.5 billion

 

Rebel Foods- Online cloud kitchen firm Rebel Foods, best known for its Behrouz Biryani and Ovenstory Pizza was founded in 2011 by Jaydeep Barman and Kallol Banerjee to street rolls. It has also expanded abroad to the UK and Indonesia, among other countries.

Investors: Sequoia, Lightbox, Coatue, Qatar Investment Authority

Valuation: $1.4 billion

Others

Apna- Before Mensa Brands, Apna, named for Ranveer Singh’s Apna Time Aaega song, was India’s fastest unicorn, in less than two years, without any revenue, since founding by former Apple executive Nirmit Parikh. It is a jobs and networking platform for blue and gray collar workers.

Investors: Sequoia, Lightspeed, Tiger, Insight

Current valuation: $1.1 billion

MPL- Online gaming and esports firm Mobile Premier League (MPL) was founded by Sai Srinivas and Shubh Malhotra in 2018. It allows users to compete in various formats, including head-to-head matches or in tournament play for free or a small fee to earn cash.

Investors: Sequoia, Moore Strategic Ventures, Go-Ventures, SIG, RTP Global

Current valuation: $2.3 billion

ShareChat- Founded by Ankush Sachdeva, Bhanu Singh and Farid Ahsan in 2015, local language social network ShareChat’s growth and valuation skyrocketed in 2021, driven by India’s ban on Chinese apps, which led to ShareChat’s sister app, short video platform Moj racking up hundreds of millions of users.

Investors: India Quotient, Lightspeed, Elevation, Tiger, Temasek, Twitter, Tencent

Current valuation: $3.7 billion

Urban Company- Home services provider Urban Company was among the companies to benefit from the health and safety focus during the Covid-19 pandemic, as home haircuts, home cleaning and appliance maintenance became more important and mainstream. Founded by Abhiraj Bhal, Raghav Chandra and Varun Khaitan, it has also expanded to the Middle East.

Investors: Accel, Elevation, Tiger, Steadview Capital, Prosus

Valuation: $2 billion

NoBroker- NoBroker runs an online real estate platform for residential and commercial properties. Founded by Amit Agarwal, Akhil Gupta and Saurabh Garg in 2014, it is looking to solve the massive problem in India of a broken value in real estate with tons of middlemen and a lack of accountability.

Investors: Elevation, General Atlantic, Tiger

Current valuation: $1 billion

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M. Sriram
first published: Dec 31, 2021 07:57 am
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