India & Emerging Unicorns !

नमस्कार 🙏

2021 marks the most successful year for the startups in India. In one year alone India witnessed exponential rise in the number of startups reaching Unicorn milestone, to be precise 33 new unicorns .

What does this mean for Indian Startups and India ?

This number pushed Indian startup unicorn ranking from 4th to 3rd place in global unicorn race. India is now 3rd in place leaving behind UK and just below USA and China. However if you see the numbers, India is still behind these two nations, USA 254 unicorns and China with 74[1] adding in year 2021.

Even though Indian unicorn number is not large, when compared to the global leaders in unicorns, it is quite significant for the Indian startup ecosystem.

The new unicorns in this year, ranging from variety of sectors including first ever unicorn in E-pharma (Pharm Easy) , first Health Tech unicorn (Innovaccer) and first social commerce unicorn (Meesho) not to forget multiple startups and unicorns in FinTech, On Demand Delivery and E-commerce sectors. Not only this Indians are now leading 119 Unicorns all over the world with 54 of them in India.

India has always been centre for number of multinational companies to open up their offshore development centre , Research & Development centre , outsourcing etc. However homegrown startup ecosystem has been a big leap ahead, young graduates can now not only look for big brand to work with but working on a startup is also new and exiting opportunity & with success stories like unicorn OYO Rooms founded by 24 years old Ritesh Agarwal and story of Zerodha founded by Nithin Kamath a Leading stock brokerage firm in India, Entrepreneurship is a viable option and no longer a distant dream at 50 something.

Indian television programs these days are filled with advertisements of successful startups be it digital payment app Like PhonePe, PayTM or On Demand delivery apps like Swiggy, Zomato. Not only these but there are multiple startups heading to become unicorn and whats the most exiting about them that they are being quickly adapted by consumers and you can see those not just in Television advertisements but also in IPO’s. Zomato being one of the most overbought IPO of recent time. Of course not all business models are Investor/Traders’s favourite (they see it through 😉) and stock market is different creature all together however the IPO listing can be considered as first step for any startup heading towards an enterprise.

The leading factor in this growth

There are multiple factors that triggered this growth. One of the most important factor is adaption of smart phones by majority of the population leading to larger user base for any App startup. Other factor is digital first business model, be it On Demand delivery of the food, medicines or Shopping products online.

One of the trigger point, I think, that boosts to digital payments is Demonetization decision taken by Government of India . Yes, its economical benefits are still debatable , yes it is still being criticised or praised depending upon the view, however knowingly or unknowingly it has given a much needed push for digital payments as it was one of the easiest way for the payments during demonetization period. This has increased the user base for many digital payment apps. Five years, and now in 2021 India is witnessing worlds largest digital payment with over 3.65 billion transaction[2] this year alone.

The Road Ahead

Right from startup till being an unicorn, the journey is tough. I usually compare it with climbing 🧗🏻‍♀️ a mountain and that too not any mountain but climbing Mount Everest 🏔. Many dream of it, many train for it, few has courage to kickstart this journey (as full time or part time), some quickly give up, some push ahead of base camp 🙂(timely execution & get up to Series C funding) and finally only courageous one reaches the top 🦄.

As of now, we are just counting the private startups becoming an unicorn however there is a much bigger picture when it comes to technology or digitalization to look at. Each and every sector/business is now becoming digital and going online.

How can a government be behind? It is not, rather it is leading this sector. One of the best example is National Payments Corporation of India who developed the Unified Payments Interface  and now its playing major role in instant digital payments. Many government schemes/facilities are available online be it Railway Reservation or Passport application or filing your Income Tax return improving every year in its features and ease of use. Bringing all such facilities provided right from central government till the gram panchayat could be the largest ever digital transformation and would defiantly need lot of talent pool and therefore creating multiple opportunities.

No one can predict a definite growth however one thing is for sure, India has the right ingredients (talent pool , needed education system & encouraging/success stories) to move ahead, grow at much faster rate in terms of not only creating Unicorns but large enterprise that could shape the future, who knows the next Google, Apple or Netflix could be from India as well .


[1] Article-1

[2] Article-2