All Indian startups that made unicorn in 2021 πŸ¦„

Filter Coffee β˜•

Jul 7, 2021

7 min read

2020 was a pivotal year for the Indian venture ecosystem.

Pandemic-frozen Indian economy leaned heavily on digitization for survival. Startups from food delivery, payments, ecommerce to gaming, and media saw ungodly enthusiasm β€” packing half a decade’s worth of growth within a year's time.

As the waves calmed a bit, investors regained footing, and follow-on investments chasing confident data points brought in a wave of new unicorns for 2021 🍻

Quick look at everyone that β€œgot made” on the street:


1. CRED β€” Consumer fintech πŸ’³

Offers a credit card payment tool which rewards users for timely bill payments.

Gamifying a boring category, and running an highly exclusive invite-only model for almost a year, CRED managed to filter out a community of highly creditworthy customers β€” to which it will upsell a broad suite of adjacent products going forward.

The stats β€” 6 million+ users are on board. The company accounts for 20% of all credit card payments in India. Last valued at $2.2 billion.

The signal β€” India has barely 60 million credit cards, relative to 900 million+ debit cards. Plenty of opportunity here to displace this category from banks who have done a sloppy job of adapting to advantages of tech and data.


2. Meesho β€” Social Commerce πŸ“²

Runs a digital marketplace where users discover products, and then resell with 1-click shares via social apps like Whatsapp, FB, or Instagram.

Stay-at-home mums, offline merchants, solopreneurs, as well as professionals looking to make a quick $ on the side form majority of the userbase. Meesho handles all things backend, and fulfillment.

The stats β€” 65K+ wholesalers operate on the platform, which works in 4,800 cities, booking annual volumes of β‚Ή500 crores. On the other end are 13 million resellers, sharing links with their friends and families.

The signal β€” Social commerce accounts for just 5% of the $140 billion Indian e-commerce market, with the potential to reach a GMV of $20B by 2025. You don't expect all Indian sellers to be Shopify savvy now do you...

Also, WhatsApp's commerce ambitions in India hang plenty on Meesho, which is why Zuck was one of the first checks into the company!


3. PharmEasy β€” Online pharmacy πŸ’Š

PharmEasy works with a network of brick and mortar pharmacies to deliver consumers meds they order online, in addition to offering doorstep medical consultations.

Also, there's a SaaS solution for offline pharmacies to manage logistics, procurement and delivery. Recent acquisition of diagnostics firm Thyrocare throws in a robust offline network of testing labs β€” completing the platform.

The stats β€” serves 2 million customers, with 60K brick & mortar pharmacies and 4,000 doctors. Recent Acquisition of rival Medlife officially made PharmEasy India’s largest independent e-pharma service.

The signal β€” COVID offered online pharma a huge boost, but barely 9 million Indians order their meds online, which shows just how long the runway is.


4. Urban Company β€” Home services marketplace πŸ’†β€β™€οΈ

Brings daily services at the doorsteps of consumers β€” from haircuts, to plumbing, to appliance repairs and massages β€” the options run beyond your simple needs. COVID's push to home renovations and remodeling helped UC accelerate growth.

The stats β€” 35K+ service providers, across 30 major Indian cities. Last year, Urban Company made $30 million in revenues.

Big picture β€” productizing services is a hard and an expensive biz, but with competition nonexistent at this scale, Urban Company has a significant lead on any would be rivals.


5. Groww Β β€” Consumer fintech πŸ“ˆ

Groww is building an investing platform that allows millennials to invest in stocks, mutual funds, bonds, ETFs and golds. Young investors getting pulled into the markets in 2020 has multiplied usage.

Groww also recently acquired the mutual fund business of India Bulls, one of the oldest legacy asset managers in India, solidifying its business model β€” offering a larger share of commissions than being a mere "distributor" allows for.

The stats β€” with over 6 million users, Groww is one of the largest full service investing platforms in India today.

Bottomline β€” investment penetration is well below 20% of the addressable base in India today, leaving ample room for growth. However competition remains intense, with cash-machine Zerodha capable of swinging big punches.


6. Innovaccer β€” Healthcare SaaS ☁️

Sells an end-to-end SaaS platform that helps hospitals, insurance companies, and other enterprises in the healthcare value chain bring distributed datasets together and generate insights for improving care delivery.

Tiger Global led the company's unicorn-making Series D, valuing it at $1.3 billion. Growth rates are expected to top 100% by the year end of the year.

The stats β€” made $100 million+ in sales for 2020. COVID's big push to digitization of healthcare delivery is offering strong tailwinds. Also, a hot acquisition target for Big Tech's cloud units that are chasing healthcare IT opportunities.


7. Infra Market β€” Construction marketplace πŸ‘·β€β™‚οΈ

Runs a B2B marketplace for construction, offering a broad suite of services that simplifies material procurement, logistics, project execution, discovery of construction service providers, as well as financing of projects.

Breadth of offering make this one of the most convoluted and ambitious projects in India, and rightly disrupting a highly fragmented, inflated, and illiquid market.

The stats β€” business grew 5x over the past year, and the company is on track to top an ARR of $180 million this year.


8. Gupshup β€” Messaging platform πŸ“³

Sells a messaging platform for enterprises β€” offering a broad suite of communication tools, including messaging APIs, conversational bots, WhatsApp chat functionalities, email marketing β€” the whole menu.

Originally designed as a group chat platform, Gupshup made a successful pivot to enterprise functionality in the middle of its 17 year run.

The stats β€” serves 100K enterprises, processing 6B+ messages monthly. Revenue run rate touched $150 million last year, on the back of rising demand for digital fulfillment, commerce, and work from home needs.

Bottomline β€” modular communications will see explosive growth as digital agents – human or autonomous multiply to service online transactions. Platforms like Twilio, Route Mobile, Bandwidth show the runway is bright.


9. ShareChat β€” Vernacular social πŸŽ™οΈ

Vernacular social platform for people to create, engage and share content via a bunch of local languages.

Regional content has been growing rapidlyβ€” thanks to the JIO-subsidized internet wildfire that has been gripping heartland India. ShareChat won big from being one of the early movers in the space, and that dominance looks insurmountable.

The stats β€” reports 160M+ monthly active users and is plugged right into the heart of Bharath. Follow on products like Moj has been winning big from TikTok's demise in India.

Bottomline β€” India's internet users are expected to top 900 million by 2025, you bet not majority of them will be found on Twitter or other "English" first elite platforms. There's a whole ecosystem waiting for its moment.


10. Digit β€” Online insurance 😷

Led by insurance veteran, Kamesh Goyal β€” Digit sells a broad portfolio of insurance products ranging from health, motor, property, to fire.

The startup was India's first insurtech unicorn and is backed by some solid investors β€” most notably Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa’s investment firm, Fairfax Holdings.

The stats β€” serves over 15 million users, and earns $186 million in annual premiums. Also, is profitable, an elusive feat for other ventures of this list.

Bottomline β€”India's insurance penetration is horribly low, but COVID's impact on the industry coupled with the rise of digital services is moving the needle quite strongly.


11. Chargebee β€” Online billing management πŸ’±

Chargebee sells a SaaS tool to SMEs, solopreneurs and large enterprises that simplifies online revenue operations β€” including collecting payments, managing subscriptions, and billings.

The stats β€” the platform is used by 3,000+ customers, largely in Europe and the US, with revenues doubling in 2020.

Bottomline β€” subscription management is a small but sizable vertical within payment operations, expected to top $7 billion by 2025. Plenty competitive, but so far Chargebee has made quite a name for itself within the game.


12. Zeta β€” Banking-as-a-service platform 🏦

Zeta's software application integrates with the core of legacy-banking systems, helping banks deliver better digital experiences to customers.

On the other hand, Zeta also works with startups looking to plug into a bank’s SDK’s and infrastructure to issue modern debit, credit, and prepaid products.

The stats β€” 10 banks and 25 fintechs have been onboarded, and last year Zeta made $10 million in revenues. Β 

Bottomline β€” consumer products are looking at embedded fintech features as a hook to build a sticky relationship with end users. BaaS services are pegged to become a $160 billion+ market by 2027. Long game, but competition remains slim in India.


13. Moglix β€” B2B commerce marketplace 🏭

Moglix runs an industrial B2B e-commerce marketplace for small, medium and large enterprises, helping source industrial goods, consumables, and raw materials easily β€” calling itself the "Alibaba of India".

The stats β€” connects more than 500,000 enterprises and 3,000+ manufactures, with 16,000 listed sellers, across India, Singapore, UK and the UAE.

Bottomline β€” the global B2B ecommerce market is a $10 trillion+ gambit, barely 5% digitized β€” making it a much larger opportunity than retail ecommerce. Especially in India, the opportunity to add some transparency and standardization is HUGE.


14. BrowserStack β€” Web and Mobile testing platform 🦾

Decade old BrowserStack provides comprehensive platform for developers and companies to test live apps and websites.

Bootstrapped until 2018, the company saw the participation of legendary investor Mary Meeker's Bond Capital in its unicorn making Series B, and remains one of the highest valued global SaaS companies based in India.

The stats β€” Β platform used by 4 million developers across 50,000+ enterprises. Last year, revenues grew 70%+ to over $100 million, and an IPO could be imminent.

Bottomline β€” despite the 15 year long headway, global adoption of cloud software is still in its early stages. BrowserStack leads the market in its category and will continue to win from long term tailwinds.


15. MindTickle β€” Enterprise Training πŸ‘¨β€πŸŽ“

Helps large enterprises improve the efficiency of their sales staff through data-driven coaching and upskilling β€” a value proposition that shines bright in the post COVID era where sales staff continue to face complex challenges amidst lockdowns, no travel, and remote selling.

MindTickle raised $100 million from Softbank's Vision 2 Fund in Feb 2021.

The stats β€” annual revenues easily top $40 million+, growing 180%+ YoY. With competitors like Pluralsight getting acquired for multiple billions, the sector runs hot on the radar of buyout and PE firms.

Bottomline β€” the $160 billion corporate training industry has virtually frozen in its tracks post 2020. Large part of it will be forever be digitized.


16. 5 Star Finance β€” Financial Services πŸ’°

Old school lender offering credit to small businesses and blue collar workers β€” and has been around for 4 decades.

Operating primarily in South India, the company has over 262 branches across eight states with β‚Ή4,030 crores in AUM. But a recent focus on digital pivot has helped the business catch a wave. Sequoia, KKR and TPG Capital are all pot holders.

The stats β€” business has grown 20x over the past decade, and with operating leverage kicking in, thanks to wide adoption of technology, profits nearly doubled to β‚Ή256 crore last year.

Big pictureβ€” banks have horribly failed India's expanding middle class and SMEs, which throws an exciting opportunity at the disposal of data-driven, tech-first platforms.


And that's a wrap πŸŽ‰

To summarize 2021: total 380 VC deals announced, $12.1 billion raised!

Not unimaginable to see these numbers 2x by the end of the year!

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