Best Startups in India: Unicorns, Profitable, Loss making, etc.
Created on 02 Nov 2022
Wraps up in 10 Min
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Updated on 05 Dec 2022
‘Startup owner’ seems to be a buzzword flaunted by every LinkedIn influencer to announce their presence. However, in recent years, startups in India have gained traction, and India is witnessing successful entrepreneurs launching their own companies.
While India was once known as an outsourcing powerhouse (aka a freelancer’s idea of heaven), the country has quickly made its way up to become one of the most important startup hubs in Asia and perhaps even the world, as we’ve seen companies like Flipkart and Zomato become household names.
There’s no doubt that this trend will continue as India becomes more of a dominant player in the international market, with predictions showing that the Indian economy will grow bigger than China and the United States by FY 2028.
While there are many successful startups in India to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start when looking at investment opportunities or business partners. For this reason, we've compiled a list of startups in India.
History of Startup in India
In the early 1990s, startups in India were almost negligible. Indians did not yet embrace the idea of entrepreneurship, and the word startup was unheard of. However, that changed with internet access expanding to more people in urban areas and tech firms like Infosys scaling up their reach.
A classic tale of success that has been quoted innumerable times- Flipkart was born out of the simple idea of selling books online. Seeing this, Indian entrepreneurs started taking risks to build something big from scratch, which is how top startups in India were established.
Hundreds of successful startups have popped up in India, making millions in revenue every year. These startups range from consumer-facing apps to enterprise software development firms. The startup scene in India has grown exponentially with a rise in both venture capital and mergers & acquisitions over the past decade.
As a result of this growth, a new goal that startups seek is that of a “Unicorn”.
Top Unicorn Startups in India
No, we don’t mean the one-horned horse here. However, as rare as the Scottish animal it’s named for, a startup is considered a unicorn when it achieves a valuation of $1 billion or more. The term was coined by venture capitalist Aileen Lee. Unicorns have been prevalent in Silicon Valley for decades, but recent times have seen them crop up in other areas like China and India. This can be attributed to the rise of mobile phones and e-commerce, which has boosted their growth. Among other equally-important metrics, one way to gauge a startup is by looking at whether or not they've been able to achieve the status of a unicorn startup.
Here’s a list of the top unicorn startups in India:
1) Games 24X7:
Started in 2001 by a group of Delhi-based businessmen, Games24X7 is one of India’s largest B2C online gaming companies.
To date, Games 24X7 has sold more than 100 million video game keys to customers across 150+ countries and generated over ₹4.1 thousand crore in revenue from retail transactions, which makes it a part of the top 10 unicorn startups in India.
Oxyzo is a FinTech startup that has created an online credit financing platform for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The company issues loans with fixed repayment dates, providing businesses with quick and easy access to credit.
Oxyzo aims to bring easier financial management options for small business owners all over India. The platform focuses on making things simple by allowing entrepreneurs to instantly apply for a loan by answering a few questions and notifying them of their approval within 24 hours.
Founded in 2008 by Baskar Subramanian, Amagi is one of the top 10 unicorn startups in India founded in Bangalore. It offers cloud-based services to consumers. The company started as a mobile ad network for small businesses and was named in the list of startups in India.
Founded by Abhijit Kane, Abhinav Asthana and Ankit Sobti in 2014, Postman is associated with 17 million users and 500,000 organisations. The company counts Nexus Venture Partners and Coatue among its investors.
Founded in 2012, ThoughtSpot is building an artificial intelligence that sifts through all of your company’s data to return quick answers and actionable insights. It is a chief entry in the list of Startups in India.
Launched in 2000, BillDesk provides online payment processing services to merchants and individuals. The company is headquartered in Mumbai.
As of FY2021, the payment processor has recorded a revenue of over ₹2,100 crore.
The company cemented its unicorn status with SoftBank and Alibaba Group as investors. The Chinese e-commerce platform and the Japanese holding company helped with the payment intermediary’s funding, sending its valuation from $1.6 billion to $2 billion.
Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma was named India’s Youngest Self-Made Billionaire by Forbes magazine, with a net worth estimated at $1 billion in the year 2017. Post-listing, however, the aforementioned investors exited the payment intermediary, and the business has lost its unicorn status since.
CoinSwitch is an online platform that lets consumers easily buy and sell digital currencies, including bitcoin. The company allows users to exchange more than 300 different kinds of cryptocurrencies, and it supports conversion between more than 45,000 pairs of cryptocurrencies.
This is a business-focused startup that aims to change how businesses are funded. Unlike crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, it’s open to startups that have already completed the first round of funding or received support from angels and incubators, so you don’t need to worry about making hundreds of people happy.
It focuses on non-equity deals where investors do not get an ownership stake in the business. Instead, investors are provided services offered by OfBusiness in exchange for the funds provided by them.
Successful Startups in India
The startup India ecosystem has come a long way, and the number of new startups is growing exponentially. The top 10 startups in India are not just the ones backed by VCs. They have also been able to stay afloat and grow by utilising external investments, which is the key to growth.
Some top startups in India have overcome these challenges and become profitable, so their investors and owners are finally getting their dues. Here, we have compiled a list of successful startups in India-
Mamaearth has been operating as an organic, natural, and eco-friendly beauty brand since 2016. 100% organic, vegan and cruelty-free, they ensure that they are ethically producing their products while also ensuring that they are not harming any animals or the environment.
Mamaearth's position in the top startups in India stems from its ability to make high-quality products with high efficacy rates and affordable prices.
ShipRocket is one of the top startups in India that has been designed to provide an end-to-end e-commerce shipping solution.
ShipRocket has already gained traction by solving one of eCommerce's biggest pain points, shipping. They've partnered with over 500 couriers and offer rates as low as Rs 15 per km. They also offer a wide range of services, such as packaging, storage, and logistics management, at competitive rates.
One of the top startups in India, Lenskart lets you order contact lenses and glasses online and deliver them to your doorstep.
Lenskart offers all major brands of contact lenses, including Acuvue, Biofinity, Air Optix, and Freshlook. Lenskart’s founder recently appeared on the television show Shark Tank India as an investor.
GupShup is a social networking and chats app that helps people connect with friends, family, and acquaintances.
GupShup was founded by Beerud Sheth and is currently available on Android and iOS devices. The app also has an online version for desktop computers and is one of the most successful startups in India.
Zerodha, an Indian financial company that has been around since 2007, is one of the successful startups and one you should keep your eye on. The company offers trading services as well as investment solutions and personal finance solutions, making it a one-stop shop for all your financial needs.
To get a quick answer for all your finance-related queries, Groww’s mutual fund investing platform comes as a boon. The startup claims to have simplified investing by providing a one-stop shop for financial products and services such as loans, insurance and mutual funds.
FirstCry is an online baby products store founded in 2010. They are one of the largest online retailers in India and have been a pioneer in introducing new-age innovations and customer care practices, making them one of the most successful startups in India.
Nykaa is an online retailer that offers a variety of beauty and wellness products. Founded by Falguni Nayar, Nykaa currently has more than 300 brands listed on its platform. The company was founded in 2012, with an initial investment from venture capital firms and various Bollywood celebrities.
Zoho is a major name in startups in India that specialises in a wide range of business software, including CRM, email marketing, project management and analytics. Zoho also offers free online tools like Zoho Sheet (a free spreadsheet app), Zoho Docs (a free online word processor), and Zoho Mail (a free web-based email service).
It is a cloud-based customer service software created by Freshworks (formerly Freshdesk) that helps companies deliver high-quality and personalised customer service across multiple channels. The company has been recognised as one of Forbes' 2021 Cloud 100.
Challenges Faced by Startups in India
Indian startups have had to deal with several challenges, including the lack of infrastructure, low internet speeds and rampant piracy. They also face the challenge of overcoming their country's cultural barriers and educating people about these new businesses.
Despite these challenges, there is still a lot of excitement for Indian startups due to the potential for exponential growth. Investors are starting to notice, and some of the most successful startups in India, like Snapdeal and Ola Cabs, have received huge amounts of funding in recent years.
There is also an increasing interest in the Indian startup ecosystem that want to profit from this opportunity before it becomes saturated. It will be interesting to see how the future plays out for India's startup economy, but one thing is certain: it will be big.
Yet, many startups in India fail to become profitable for their investors or start losing money after a couple of years, even after becoming household names. A list of loss-making startups in India can be seen below
List of Loss Making Startups
Name of Startup
Loss incurred in FY 2021
How Can A Startup Overcome These Challenges?
As in any country, startups in India too face their challenges. Increasingly, these are not the same as they were just a few years ago but rather more nuanced. For example, while hiring still presents a significant challenge for most companies in India (especially those looking to hire people with specialised skills), it is not the only one.
More broadly, there is no longer an old economy and a new economy; instead, there's now what can be best described as two economies that exist simultaneously. Startup founders must keep this in mind when designing their business models and executing new products and services catering to old and new customers.
Furthermore, since startups in India include many online businesses, they must continue investing heavily in developing world-class digital capabilities. They should start by focusing on three areas in particular:
1) using data analytics tools to understand consumer behaviour and develop personalised content,
2) building high-quality websites and applications that ensure user engagement, and
3) automating marketing campaigns through various channels, including social media platforms like Facebook.
The Bottom Line
With the Tatas, Ambanis and more, India has always been a country of entrepreneurs. The startup scene is more of a thing from the last decade or so. With venture capitalists funding startups in droves and many of them making it big, there's never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.
However, it is not as easy a task as just setting up shop and going off. Careful planning and foresight into direction are of utmost importance when creating a startup.
Private equity funding will only get businesses so far. After these pop-up shops run out of cash to burn, unstable startups may become a sorry picture of doom and gloom
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