Startup Unicorns of India in 2018

India is one of the world’s targeted market, big investors all around the globe searching for promising start-ups in India. The year 2018 seems to belong to the unicorns. 

In India, it’s about investing for the long term and growing along with the economy and the local startup ecosystem . Here, unlike in USA, Europe or China, internet and smartphone adoption are taking off before a large proportion of the population has sufficient disposable incomes, so the businesses that succeed here will be very different.

Here is a look at the Indian startups that raised funding this year, at a valuation of more than a billion.

1) Zomato 

Headquarters: Gurugram

Sector: Foodtech

Last funding: $200 million from Ant Financial in February this year

Estimated valuation: $1.1 billion

Zomato is a restaurant search and discovery service founded in 2008. Deepinder Goyal and Pankaj Chaddah are the proud founders of this food search engine.

Graduated from IIT Delhi, the duo once observed common people waiting for long hours to get served in the restaurants. It was then Deepinder and Pankaj developed a website which provides reviews and information about the restaurants including the images of the menus of those restaurants which have their own website. This eventually helped their users from wasting time for deciding on the menu.

Zomato raised $200 million in the first week of February from Ant Small and Micro Financial Services. Media reports suggested that the funding included $50 million in secondary share sales from shareholder Info Edge (India) Ltd. In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the company stated that this dilution took Info Edge’s total stake in the company to about 30.91 percent after the fundraise. 

2) Byju’s

Headquarters: Bengaluru

Sector: Edtech

Last funding round: Undisclosed

Byju Raveendran is the founder of Byju’s Classes, the Education Technology firm whose tagline is “Fall in love with learning”. The test prep business he founded in 2007. A product of a humble background, Byju Raveendran’s passion for teaching was ignited after tutoring a few friends for prep exams way back in 2003.

In 2003, during his two months break from an overseas job as a service engineer, Byju decided to help some of his friends appearing for CAT in Bangalore. It was an informal way of helping, and he also took the exam, and scored 100 percentile. He started teaching some of his friends, and took up the test yet again in 2005 without any preparation, and scored a perfect 100 percentile yet again. This time he also appeared for IIM-A, B, C interviews and cleared all of them. However, decided against pursuing MBA and instead saw potential in teaching students how to crack CAT. So, all in all, it was just by chance, that he took the entrepreneurial path, but teaching was a choice he made. Slowly and steadily, it was through word of mouth that the number of students grew. It can be called a slightly different kind of offline teaching as he would teach over 1000 students in an auditorium back in 2007.
The Azhikode-born teacher-entrepreneur’s equation with teaching began in 2007 when he quit his IT job in the UK and set up shop in Bangalore. At present his game-changing education app Byju’s, run by Think and Pvt Ltd., has over 10 million downloads just on the Android platform. 

In March, The Economic Times reported that Byju’s had silently entered the unicorn club, crossing $1 billion in estimated worth. Entites that infused funds into the company included China’s Tencent and BCCL (Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd). With this fundraise, Byju’s became the first Indian edtech company to enter the unicorn club.

Media reports now suggest that the company is gearing up for another massive fundraise, at a valuation of $1.8 - $2 billion from new investors as well as existing investor Tencent Holdings Ltd.

3) Paytm Mall

Headquarters: Noida

Sector: Ecommerce

Last funding: Rs 2,900 crore (around $450 million) in April 2018 from SoftBank and Alibaba

Estimated valuation: $1.6 billion - $2 billion

The last decade that ecommerce in India has been in existence, it has grappled with two major cash burns -- logistics and warehousing. While leaders like Flipkart and Amazon have initiated measures to cut down on the two most draining aspects of online retail in their respective march towards profitability, there is a new player in town who is changing the rules.

Launched in February 2017, Paytm Mall is focussed on keeping its cash reserved for expansion by gravitating increasingly towards the online to offline (O2O) model. The model is expected to save the new company the hassle and the cost of the fulfilling orders by laying that responsibility on the retailers and the brands directly.

"I believe in the long term this will be about how we helped Indian retailers win against large monolithic online retailers," the CEO at Paytm Mall, Amit Sinha

After much speculation in the market, online retailer Paytm Mall, in the first week of April, announced that it had raised around Rs 2,900 crore from the SoftBank Group Corp., and existing investor Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The funding was estimated to come in four tranches. Paytm Mall had said the funds were raised to empower offline merchants with superior technology as well as to build better logistics capabilities. 

4) Swiggy 

Headquarters: Bengaluru

Sector: Foodtech

Last funding: $210 million from Naspers and billionaire Yuri Milner’s DST Global in June 2018

Estimated valuation: $1.3 billion

Nandan Reddy (29) and Sriharsha Majety (31,) both alumni of Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS) Pilani, are second time lucky entrepreneurs. Back in the year 2014, they worked together on their first startup venture, Bundl, a logistics aggregator which connected small and medium companies to courier service providers. The business started off fine. However, after almost a year into it, they realised their focus needed to change from the courier service field to the food industry.

In the year of working with like minded people. Nandan and Sriharsha realised there was a strong need for an online hyperlocal logistics company in the restaurant industry. By 14 August, the duo made their dream into a reality by rolling out Swiggy, the country’s first online food ordering platform. They roped in Rahul Janimini, an IIT Kharagpur alumni, to do coding work for the platform.

Food delivery startup Swiggy raised $210 million in a funding round led by Naspers and DST Global in June. Meituan-Dianping and new investor Coatue Management also invested in this round. This made Swiggy not just the second Indian foodtech startup to earn the unicorn status, but also the fastest Indian startup to reach a billion-dollar valuation. The company achieved this milestone over a period of just four years. Swiggy is considered to have raised a total of $465 million since its inception. 

5) PolicyBazaar 

Headquarters: Gurugram

Sector: Fintech

Last funding: $200 million in equity financing led by SoftBank 

Yashish Dahia, Co-Founder & CEO of, decided to make a business by providing online information to millions of Indians planning to buy insurance products. By providing comparative data, this insurance aggregator portal has managed to corner 90 percent share of the online market.

Policy bazaar is India’s largest online financial services platform. The company began operations in 2008 in gurugram as a key force in establishing an informative online life insurance and general insurance aggregator. It helps consumers analyse, choose and buy financial products based on price, quality and other key features.

In June, PolicyBazaar’s parent company, ETechAces Marketing & Consulting Pvt Ltd, became a unicorn when parent company ETechAces Marketing & Consulting Pvt Ltd raised $200 million. Founder Yashish Dahiya has said that a majority of the investments will be used to build their new telemedicine business, DocPrime, which will also act as a cross-selling platform to leverage PolicyBazaar and PaisaBazaar’s (the group’s lending arm) products. 

6) Freshworks 

Headquarters: Chennai

Sector: SaaS

Last funding round: $100 million in August 2018 investment led by Sequoia Capital, and Accel Partners, and CapitalG

Estimated valuation: $1.5 billion

An Indian software startup that doesn’t dig on IIT and IIM graduates, chase venture capital funds, or have an office in the country’s Silicon Valley, Bengaluru?

Meet Freshworks, a Chennai and San Bruno, California-based software maker. Girish Mathrubootham the Founder and CEO of Freshworks (previously known as Freshdesk).the company’s products include Freshservice, Freshsales, and Freshcaller. Its flagship, Freshdesk, is a customer support helpdesk that helps firms collate and direct customer complaints to the concerned departments and provide solutions.

Earlier this month, Chennai-based Freshworks announced that it had raised $100 million from Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and CapitalG. This takes the total fundraise of the company to $250 million. The cash infusion will be used to further expand Freshworks’ worldwide expansion and grow its integrated Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.

In June, Freshworks had announced that it had crossed $100 million in annual recurring revenue, led by its flagship support products Freshdesk (customer support software), Freshservice (IT service management software) and Freshsales (CRM software). Indian hotel aggregator OYO is also speculated to have reached a billion-dollar valuation earlier this year before it kick-started its operations in China. As per the last funding round, OYO raised a $250 million round of funding, which was led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.


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