India’s Mensa Brands breached the billion-dollar valuation mark in just six months from launch, becoming the fastest startup in India to become a unicorn.
“Our deep focus on technology and digital brand building, as well as our people, has allowed us to grow 3x of our initial plan,” Ananth Narayanan, founder, and CEO of Mensa Brands, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Investors include Alpha Wave Ventures, a unit of Falcon Edge Capital; Prosus Ventures; Tiger Global Management; Accel Partners and Norwest Venture Partners. They invested $135 million in the brand aggregator.
Mensa buys majority stakes in digital-first brands that primarily sell their wares on the internet, acting as an umbrella company that owns and operates them. The firm said in a statement that it has invested in 12 brands across the fashion, home, beauty, and personal care categories.
“We are delighted to continue to back Mensa as it becomes the fastest unicorn in Asia,” said Niren Shah, managing director and head of Norwest Venture Partners India, in a statement.
Before starting Mensa, Narayanan, a former McKinsey executive, used to be the CEO of Flipkart-owned online fashion store Myntra. He also had a stint at the helm of online health care platform Medlife that was bought by bigger rival PharmEasy earlier this year.
Mensa is one of the many beneficiaries of the recent investor frenzy to bankroll direct-to-consumer startups and their enablers as the Indian economy goes back to normalcy. India’s gross domestic product is on the recovery path, having contracted 7.3% in the fiscal year 2021 when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic overwhelmed the country. In an October report, the International Monetary Fund estimated the Indian economy will grow 9.5% in the current fiscal year and 8.5% in fiscal year 2022.
“Mensa’s valuation reflects what Ananth has delivered historically in his earlier avatars and what he has been able to deliver at Mensa,” said Neeraj Shrimali, executive director, digital and technology, at investment bank Avendus. “It also reflects the potential of what this platform can be in the future. This capital will be required towards a core business function, which is acquiring good brands and scaling them up.”
Startup data tracker Tracxn estimated that Indian startups received approximately $3.7 billion from venture investors this year. China’s crackdown on some of the country’s largest technology companies has placed India as a preferred destination in Asia for global pools of capital. The ebullience around public listings by loss-making startups such as Zomato, PolicyBazaar, and Paytm has added to the frenzy, often leading to high valuations– 34 out of 50 unicorn startups crossed $1 billion valuations in 2021.