10 Indian startups joins unicorn club in 2020 despite COVID-19 pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic is severely impacting businesses across various sectors and countries, the startup scene in India is singing a different tune having seen 10 new startups reaching the $1 billion valuations in 2020.

The list is compiled by Venture Intelligence and includes:

  1. Pine Labs – PoS and merchant platform serving over 150,000 merchants in 3,700 cities across Asia and the Middle East
  2. Nykaa – Online beauty-turned-lifestyle retailer that sells a range of skin and body care products, naturals, and fine fragrances
  3. Unacademy – Ed-tech startup with a vast network of over 180,000 educators and over 35,000 subscribers
  4. Razorpay – Payments solutions startup that authenticates and accept payments made through credit cards, debit cards, internet banking, and digital wallets
  5. Postman – Enterprise SaaS collaboration platform for application programming interface development used by over 11 million developers across the globe
  6. Zerodha – Platform for companies to accelerate their pace and effectiveness of software development
  7. Cars24 – Intermediary platform for buying and selling pre-owned vehicles
  8. Zenoti – Formerly known as ManageMySpa, Zenoti helps close to 1,000 spa and salon brands across 50 countries to manage and digitize appointments and PoS
  9. VerSe Innovation – Parent company of popular news aggregator platform Dailyhunt
  10. Glance – Subsidiary of InMobi Group, Glance delivers AI-driven personalized content in multiple languages across its platform

The report explains that while the pandemic has indeed drastically impact businesses across sectors including hospitality, travel, and transportation, startups within edtech, fintech, and healthcare sectors attracted huge investor interest during the year.

In fact, the year 2020 also witnessed the first unicorns coming from the Indian social media and content space: Glance and Dailyhunt.

Skanda Jayaraman, the managing director and head of investment banking at Spark Capital Advisors India commented on the situation, saying that “2020 saw the emergence of digitization of a lot of consumer patterns, from education to essentials, central and long-standing purchasing habits were disrupted at its core, and most of these changes are here to stay for 2021 and much beyond,”

It is this major shift in consumption patterns that is the reason why digitech companies and startups are finding themselves benefiting immensely from a funding and valuation re-rating, Jayaraman explained.

Additionally, a total of 14 Indian companies also saw their stocks listed on the BSE and National Stock Exchange during 2020. Among the 14 stocks trading, four of them ended the year 100% higher than their issue price.

This high expectations is likely to continue well throughout 2021 as several well-known internet startups, inclluding four unicorns which plan to list on the Mumbai stock exchanges this year. The four unicorns are online retailer Flipkart, food delivery company Zomato, ecommerce logistic service provider Delhivery and top online insurance marketplace Policybazaar.

Naturally, this will have a significant impact on the wider Indian stock market, which have been predominantly occupied by state-owned companies and family owned conglomerates.

India is currently the third largest ecosystem in the world, after the United States and China. The country is home to 21 unicorns which have a total valuation of US$73.2 billion.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s abassador to the United States even shared in a mentoring programme for Indian National Awards 2020, “entrepreneurial activity has picked up in India.By some estimates, more than 50 soonicorn’ startups might join the unicorn club as early as 2022.”

Based on a joint October report by TiE Delhi, a non-profit that promotes entrepreneurship, and Zinnov, a global management and strategy consulting firm, India is expected to have 60,000 to 62,000 startups by 2025, with a total of 100 unicorns.

Rajan Anandan, the president of TiE Delhi-NCR commented on the report saying that “Although the immediate impact of the lockdowns on the Indian startup ecosystem was severe, we were amazed to witness how quickly Indian founders acted to re-imagine their businesses. What has been most impressive is how many startups have reduced cash burn and improved unit economics very rapidly.”

And this steady stream of initial public offering by Indian startups throughout 2020 is just the beginning. This run of unicorns is set to continue in 2021, as forecasted with plans from a handful of internet startups. In any case, India’s startup ecosystem is certainly one to behold.

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