Digital Business Unicorns from India

Did you know there are 113 unicorns from India on the global list?

Inc 42. reports in its article that ‘India is now home to 113 unicorns with a combined valuation of more than $350 Bn.’

India is in a booming digital sector with both the public and private sectors engaging in digital entrepreneurship and investments. In 2024, the first startup to enter the unicorn list was Bhavish’s Agarwal AI startup Krutrium. Several unicorns coming from India are from the fintech sector, e-commerce and enterprise tech, and SaaS sector.

Impact of unicorns in India on its economy and industry

For the Indian economy, unicorns stand for the vibrant and booming digital start-up ecosystem and entrepreneurial drive. It exemplifies the potential and innovation in the country that is revolutionizing industries. Addressing many environmental, social, and economic challenges. Fuelling economic growth and generating new employment opportunities.

The list of Indian unicorns today are:
a. Driving economic growth in India.
b. Acting as a catalyst to make new technology available across sectors.
c. Generating new job opportunities.
d. Attracting new investment firms to the country.
e. Transforming the markets and sector functioning towards new growth opportunities.
f. Fostering a culture of innovation and paving the way for entrepreneurs to thrive in the start-up ecosystem.

The characteristics of digital business that contribute to it becoming a start-up

When we look closely, we will find many similar characteristics in the 113 Indian unicorns. These are:

a. Disruptive innovation leveraging advanced technology usage.
b. Scalability model mapped out in phases.
c. Strong leadership team and management style.
d. Multiple successful funding rounds from leading international investment firms.
e. Rapidly growing to evolve, penetrate markets, and reach growth milestones.
f. Sustainable models of growth, green technology solutions, and partnerships models.

Leading digital business startups from India

1. Zepto

Founded in 2021 by Aadi Palicha and Kaivalya Vohra, Zepto is a digital business start-up based in Mumbai. It offers 10-minute delivery services for groceries in the country. The digital start-up aims to shorten the delivery time for grocery orders online. They use the tagline ‘Groceries delivered in 10 minutes’.

Working in the quick commerce segment in India Zepto has a network of dark storefronts and mini-warehouses for grocery storage. The brand’s business model is customer-centric and instant service.

The brand has raised a total of $597.8 million in funding over seven rounds of funding, the last one being in November 2023. It has investments from Goodwater Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, StepStone Group, Y Combinator Continuity Fund, and others. With Nexus Ventures holding the largest stake at 20.9%. The brand solidified its status as a Unicorn in early 2023 by raising $200 million in Series E of funding.

2. DealShare

Founded in 2018 by four entrepreneurs: Vineet Rao, Sourjyendu Medda, Sankar Bora, and Rajat Shikar, DealShare is a social e-commerce start-up. It is an online platform with multiple categories of consumer products. The brand focuses on the new – Whatapp first approach in its product sales.

DealShare offers vernacular browsing in 8 different Indian languages. It also offers the users with affordable catalog to browse, based on user location.

DealShare entered the Unicorn club in 2022 with its Series E funding raising $65 million, followed by a $45 million round led by ADIA. Investors include Matrix Partners India, DST Global, Falcon Edge Capital, and Omidyar Network.

3. CredAvenue

Founded in 2020 by Gaurav Kumar, CredAvenue is a fintech debt marketplace. A rising leader in the market for facilitating debt financing to enterprises. By simply connecting lenders, investors, and corporate borrowers through its digital marketplace. Offering a single agnostic platform. And enabling big and small firms to gain access to the debt market for raising capital and receiving loans. It also offers NBFCs to lend and track loans.

The Chennai-based start-up entered the unicorn club within the first 2 years after raising $137 million in Series B funding. It has investment funding raised from Sequoia Captial India, TVS Captial Funds, Lightrock – a London-based private equity platform, and others.

4. Games 24×7

Founded in 2006 by Bhavin Pandya and Trivikraman Thampy, Games24x7 is an Indian online gaming platform based in Mumbai. Offering skill and casual games, empowered by the use of AI and specializing in innovative technology, Games24x7 offers players an engaging and immersive platform. RummyCircle and My11Circle are two popular games from the digital gaming start-up. The brand uses the creative tagline of ‘The Science of Gaming’, defining its creative approach to the use of technology.

It entered the Unicorn Club in 2022 by raising $75 in a funding round led by Malabar Investments. This funding round also saw the participation of the company’s already existing investors like Tiger Global and Raine Group.

5. LeadSquared

Founded in 2011 by Nilesh Patel, Prashant Singh, and Sudhakar Gorti, LeadSquared is a sales automation SaaS platform. They help other brands to automate sales, and bring efficiency to all touch points where sales executives are involved. Including call centers, feet-on-street force, and other digital areas where consumer sales happen. LeadSqaured offers brands tools to easily onboard vendors to do the verification process and collections.

The brand offers a complete sales execution platform with marketing automation. Focusing on influencing customer journey to drive efficiency in the entire sales channels.

In 2022, LeadSquared entered the unicorn club with its series C funding raising $153 million led by WestBridge Capital.

Shiprocket, InCred, One Card, Car Dekho, Meesho, Cred, GupShup, Acko are some other digital brands that have entered the Unicorn club in the last two years.

Achieving a unicorn status offers a brand to become a market leader. They disrupt industries, reshape market practices, and inspire others. The thriving digital business start-up economy in India is thanks to the ease of technology access and changing public policy infrastructure. Both these aspects are helping start-ups increase their capabilities and drive innovative solutions.

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