Is the word unicorn making you mentally picture the mythical horse right now? Not to burst that equestrian bubble, but in the business world, unicorns refer to those privately held startups whose valuation has reached the billion dollar mark. American investor Aileen Lee is the first to use this term to indicate why such companies are legends in the making!
Post 2013, unicorn companies are no longer rare but the phrase has stuck. India is witnessing a surge in unicorn startups from 2015 onwards, largely thanks to the funding received from angel investors and venture capitalists. In fact,2021 has seen the largest rounds of funding, making it possible for the number of companies entering the club to hit a century and collectively raise over $90 billion.
Let’s dive in to what these unicorn brands specialize in and why their entry is well-deserved.
What are Unicorn Startups?
Unicorn companies are private firms valued at $ 1 billion. In 2011, Inmobi was India's first unicorn. And it’s been raining unicorns since then, making India home to 100 of the world’s estimated 1000.
According to Mohandas Pai, Aarin Capital’s Co-Founder and Chairman, India could have 250 unicorns by 2025.
Qualifying as a unicorn is a big deal, especially for startups that were purely bootstrapped in the initial stages. The financial backing they get from investors indicates their potential for success and enables them to upscale growth and expansion. From 2020 onwards, India saw a 3x jump when 42 unicorns came up.
The Billion-Dollar Club Members: Indian Unicorns 2023
Honasa Consumer Pvt Ltd, Mamaearth’s parent company became 2022’s first unicorn. They company raised $52 million in their latest funding round which was led by Sequoia, the Belgium-based Sofina Ventures SA and UAE-based Evolvence. With this round, this D2C brand’s valuation reached $1.2 billion, which is slated for use in brand launches and paid growth.
Fractal Analytics is an AI-analytics provider that was founded two decades ago in 2000. They specialize in Azure cloud solutions and was founded by IIM-A graduates Srikanth Velamakanni Pranay Agrawal, Nirmal Palaparthi, Pradeep Suryanarayan, and Ramakrishna Reddy. Fractal followed Mamaearth and made it to the list in January 2022 by securing funding of $360 million from TPG Capital Asia.
LEAD is an education technology startup that provides e-learning solutions for students based out of non-metro cities. The company was founded in Mumbai by Sumeet Mehta and Smita Deora in 2012.
LEAD is the first e-learning unicorn to make it to the billion-dollar club reaching a valuation of $1.1 billion. It has raised $100 million from investors such as WestBridge Capital,Elevar Equity and GSV ventures.
Darwinbox is a cloud-based HR solution that features employment recruitment, onboarding and transactional processing. It was launched in 2015 by Chaitanya Peddi, Jayant Paleti and Rohit Chennamaneni.
In a cash-infusion round led by Technology Crossover ventures, Darwinbox raised $72 Million in funding, resulting in its valuation reaching the $1 billion mark. It is the third Indian unicorn to be minted in 2022. Investors such as Salesforce Ventures, Sequoia India, Lightspeed India, Endiya Partners, 3One4Capital, JGDEV and SCB 10X were participants too.
Dealshare is a social e-commerce company that makes hyperlocal grocery deliveries. It was founded by Vineet Rao,Rajat Shikhar, Sankar Bora and Sourjyendu Medda. Based in Bengaluru in business since September 2018, Dealshare has recorded a billion deliveries in over 100 cities till date. Dealshare bagged funding from investors like Tiger Global and Alpha Wave Global, raising nearly $165 million early in 2022.
Dealshare is using the funding to ramp up its operations and expand into new markets. On 23 May 2022, Dealshare announced that Venkatesh Tarakkad would be joining the team as its Chief Financial Officer. Meesho, another unicorn, is a close competitor.
6. Polygon Technology
Polygon (formerly called the Matic network) was founded by Jaynti Kanani, Sandeep Nailwal, and Anurag Arjun before bringing Serbian entrepreneur Mihailo Bjelic onboard. Polygon was developed by the Matic Network as a cryptocurrency protocol that runs on the Ethereum blockchain technology.
Polygon technology succeeded in raising $450 million in its first major VC financing round, which was led by Sequoia Capital India. Its estimated valuation is $4 billion. Hedge fund firms such asTiger Global (who has funded Open too), SoftBank, Galaxy Digital, Republic Capital, Makers Fund, Alameda Research, Alan Howard and Steadview Capital are notable investors.
Livspace is a Bengaluru-based home interior design firm that was founded in 2014 by Anuj Srivastava and Ramakant Sharma. The company started a Singapore office in 2019 and has raised $200 million in a funding round, securing its spot in the unicorn club in February 2022.
In 2014, Livspace began its Series A funding from Helion Venture Partners, Jungle Ventures and Bessemer Ventures. 6 years later, the company completed its Series D funding round led by investors such as Kharis Capital, Venturi Partners and Tahoe Investment Group.
Founded by Sandeep Deshmukh, Saurabh Nigam and Shitiz Bansal in 2016, ElasticRun is a B2B eCommerce platform for rural India that is based in Pune,Maharashtra. ElasticRun operates a direct distribution network of 10 million stores and connects brands to consumers living in rural areas.
ElasticRun is one of the first social services unicorn startups in India to have raised $300 million in a funding round led by Softbank. The funding attracted participation from Goldman Sachs, Prosus Ventures (formerly Naspers Ventures), Innoven Capital, and Abu Dhabi’s Chimera Investment, a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s Royal Group.
Xpressbees is a logistics provider that was founded by Amitava Saha and FirstCry’s founder Supam Maheshwari. In 2020, Investcorp, Norwest Venture Partners and Gaja Capital jointly acquired a 31% stake in Xpressbees.
At present, the company operates in 3000 cities and boasts a warehousing space of 10 lakh square feet. It has landed $300 million in a funding round led by Blackstone Growth, TPG Growth and ChrysCapital. This financing leaves the company at $1.1 billion, qualifying it as a unicorn startup in India.
Uniphore is a conversational automation startup headquartered in Chennai. Founded in 2008 by entrepreneurial duo Ravi Saraogi and Umesh Sachdev. The company reached unicorn status in February 2022 after raising $400 million in funding. Its estimated valuation stands at $2.5 billion.
Uniphore’s spokespersons announced the company’s intent to invest this financing towards global expansion and improving voice, AI and tonal emotion technologies. Some notable names that raised funds include Sorenson Capital Partners, Serena Capital, Cisco Investments, Chiratae Ventures and Iron Pillar.
Hasura is a data flow services tool that runs on GraphQL API. The company was co-founded in 2018 by Tanmai Gopal and Rajoshi Ghosh, who currently serve as the CEO and COO respectively. Hasura is the 10th unicorn startup in India to enter the club, after securing $100 million in a Greenoaks Capital-led funding round. Lightspeed Ventures and Vertex Ventures collectively poured in $25 million in the Series-B funding round.
- Yubi (formerly CredAvenue)
CredAvenue was launched in 2017 by Gaurav Kumar. The company connects enterprises with investors and lenders. The company received one of the largest equity-only series-A funding of $90 million funding in CredAvenue was the largest equity-only series-A round for an Indian startup.
The latest funding of $137 million that CredAvenue received from investors such as Insight Partners, B Capital and the Dragoneer Investment Group confirmed it as the eleventh unicorn in the club in March 2022. The startup spoke about its intention to allot the funds received towards business expansions, inorganic marketing and acquiring companies. company acquisitions. In June 2022, the company rebranded itself to Yubi, meaning 'ubiquitous'.
Amagi is a cloud-based media technology startup that was founded by Baskar Subramanian, Srinivasan KA, and Srividhya Srinivasan in 2008. Based out of Bengaluru, Amagi raised $95 million in an Accel-led funding round, which also saw participation from Norwest Venture partners and Avataar Ventures . The latest funding places the firm’s valuation at $1 billion+, with the company raising $250 million per date.
Besides adding 300 employees to their 500-strong workforce, Amagi plans to use the funding to augment the business with mergers and acquisitions.
Oxyzo, the financial arm of OfBusiness entered the unicorn club in March 2022 with financial backing from Alpha Wave, Tiger Global, Norwest Venture Partners, Matrix Partners, and Creation Investments. Oxyzo was launched in 2016 by Asish Mohapatra and Ruchi Kalra who head OfBusiness.
The first independent external funding it received was to the tune of $200 million, which is 3x the series-A funding CredAvenues received. The Indian unicorn currently caters to 2,500 small and medium enterprises and sanctions loans worth INR 4,000 Cr per annum.
- Games 24x7
Games24x7 is a gaming startup that was founded by Bhavin Pandya and Trivikraman Thampy in 2006. It houses popular online games such as RummyCircle and U games.
Games24x7 became India’s 99th unicorn in March after securing $75 Mn in a funding round led by Malabar India Fund. This places its valuation of $2.5 Bn. Tiger Global, a US-based hedge fund firm and the Raine Group remain active participating investors.
Open holds the distinction of becoming the 100th Indian unicorn. It is a neobanking fintech startup that was founded 5 years back by brothers Anish and Ajeesh Achuthan, Mabel Chacko, and Deena Jacob.
Open has raised $50 million from IIFL in its Series-D funding round within 6 months from its Series-C funding of $100 million, which it plans to use to grow the customer base.Till date, the Bengaluru-based Indian unicorn has raised $140 million in funding. Key investors include Temasek, 3one4 and Trifecta Capital Advisors.
Zerodha holds the distinction of going from a “proficorn” to a unicorn without raising funding from investors. It is one of the few Indian startups to do so, recording 200,000 sign ups during the pandemic from investors seeking to capitalize on the low prices forced by the stock market crash. Zerodha was founded by the Kamath brothers Nithin and Nikhil in 2010 who built up their platform through solid technology, knowledge- sharing and exceptional customer service.
The company’s client base has expanded to include 2.8M users over the past 5 years.
Rahul Dash and Manish Taneja started Purplle in 2012. Purplle is an online retailer of equipment and items for beauty located in Mumbai.
Following the completion of a $33 Mn Series E fundraising round, Purplle has become India's 102nd unicorn. The e-commerce site has secured money from Premji Invest, Blume Ventures, and Kedaara in addition to new investor Paramak Ventures, a South Korean venture capital firm. The most recent round of fundraising increased Purplle's worth to $1.1 billion. The e-commerce business has already raised $215 million in total. Other investors in the startup include Sequoia.
Crystal Ball Predictions for Indian Unicorn Startups
India has over 60K startups, which makes the country the third largest startup ecosystem in the world. Geographically, Bengaluru boasts the highest number of unicorn startups, with Delhi and Mumbai coming second and third respectively. The funding frenzy that began in 2021 has resulted in 100 unicorns making it to the list, up nearly 2x from 2021. Interestingly, LEAD, Hasura, Amagi, Oxyzo, and Open are founded by women, making them 33% of the 15 unicorns that have emerged in 2022.
Looking at it through the lens of objectivity, experts have warned that unicorn startups should snap out of its post-funding complacency and show a clear path to profitability to avoid a funding crunch down the line. In fact, there’s a slump in the number of unicorns emerging, which ties back to the decline in funding. The market fluctuations stemming from the Russia-Ukraine war have made investors more cautious in their due diligence on those companies approaching them to raise capital.
This funding slump is likely to continue till the second quarter of June 2022. We’re saying that unicorns should not rest on their laurels just yet. They can use the time to re-examine recruitment strategies and corporate governance.