India’s next unicorns: The 8 that have grabbed investor attention

After a dry spell of two years in which only two start-ups entered the unicorn club, a bunch of internet companies are set to exceed the $1 billion-valuation mark over the next year, highlighting the revival of investor interest in consumer internet businesses.

In the 18 months to January 2016, as many as six start-ups including Ola, Paytm and Quikr became unicorns, or companies that are valued at least $1 billion. In that period, investors had pumped in several billions of dollars into internet companies, believing that India’s online consumer market would surge ahead for years.

But it quickly became clear that investors had overestimated the rate at which the market would expand. In the past two years, venture capital firms slashed investments and forced their portfolio companies to cut costs and spend money in a sensible manner. Consequently, only two companies – messaging app Hike and online education platform Byju’s – became unicorns in the past two years.

But though a majority of internet companies struggled for funds in this period, some start-ups continued to flourish both on the business side and in attracting fresh capital. Now, it finally looks these start-ups are set to enter that hallowed unicorn club.

Mint looks at eight such start-ups that are market leaders in their respective businesses and have become investor favourites. (Currently, there are 11 unicorns in India)

BigBasket (Supermarket Grocery Supplies Pvt. Ltd)

Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

A relentless focus on execution helped BigBasket create a category online that most investors thought would fail. Now, BigBasket’s success has attracted the likes of Flipkart and Amazon to the online grocery business.

In just six years since its launch, BigBasket delivers fruits, vegetables and other consumer staples to customers in 30 cities. It closed a $200 million investment from China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba earlier this year. It will need more. With the impending acquisition of Flipkart by Walmart, the world’s largest retailer known for its expertise in grocery, and Amazon’s aggressive expansion, BigBasket will soon face its toughest test.

Founders: Abhinay Choudhari, Hari Menon, Vipul Parekh, and V.S. Sudhakar
Year:
 2011
Key investors:
 Alibaba Group, Abraaj Group, Ascent Capital, Bessemer, Helion Venture, and Sands Capital 
Funds raised:
 $560 million
Last valuation:
 $850 million (January 2018)

BookMyShow (Bigtree Entertainment Pvt. Ltd)

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Like BigBasket, BookMyShow has pretty much created the sector it operates in—the online movie-ticket business. Over the past few years, even as new challengers such as Paytm have mounted a significant challenge, BookMyShow has withstood the onslaught and still emerged as the undisputed market leader in the movie-ticketing sector.

So much so that India’s most valuable Internet start-up Flipkart briefly expressed interest last year in buying a minority stake in BookMyShow.

It is now entering the business of generating content through a music production studio. The company is also one of the very few capital-efficient start-ups—it hasn’t raised a funding round in nearly three years. Its next round will see a significant increase in its $500 million valuation.

Founders: Ashish Hemrajani, Parikshit Dar and Rajesh Balpande
Year:
 2007
Key investors:
 Accel Partners, Network18, SAIF Partners, and Stripes Group 
Funds raised:
 $130 million 
Last valuation:
 $500 million (July 2016)

Delhivery Pvt. Ltd

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

Delhivery is the largest provider of logistics services to e-commerce companies. As marketplaces such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and eBay started to expand, they needed couriers to reach customers, particularly in the hinterlands.

Delhivery started off in Delhi-NCR in early 2011, with a 150-size team, processing just around 500 shipments per day. By the end of 2017, Delhivery’s logistics network touched 1,200 cities and 12,000 pin codes and claimed to have completed 100 million shipments till date.

However, as e-commerce companies expand their own logistics networks, Delhivery and others are trying to diversify into new industries.

Founders: Sahil Barua, Mohit Tandon, and Suraj Saharan
Year: 2011

Key investors:
 Carlyle, Fosun, Multiples Alternate Asset Management, Nexus Venture Partners, Tiger Global Management, and Times Internet Ltd 
Funds raised:
 $270 million 
Last valuation:
 $700 million (March 2017)

Freshworks (formerly Freshdesk)

Photo: Sai Sen/Mint

Photo: Sai Sen/Mint

Freshdesk is the pioneer of the software-as-a-service model in India and its biggest hope. A lot can still go wrong for enterprise technology start-ups, amid the massive shifts taking place across the technology landscape. How Freshworks manages to navigate those shifts will go a long way in determining the fate of the sector.

From the way it has run its business so far, Freshworks has shown that it is here to stay. Since starting out in 2010, the Chennai- and California-based start-up has amassed nearly 100,000 clients across the world.

Founders: Girish Mathrubootham, and Shan Krishnasamy
Year: 2010
Key investors: Accel Partners, Google Capital, Sequoia Capital, and Tiger Global Management 
Funds raised:
 $150 million
Last valuation: $700 million (November 2016)

PolicyBazaar (EtechAces Marketing and Consulting Pvt. Ltd)

Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

The owner of PolicyBazaar and Paisabazaar is the country’s leading insurance provider. Given the low insurance penetration in India, PolicyBazaar is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of growing demand for insurance products over the next few years.

Its loans platform, Paisabazaar, is expanding rapidly and contributes about one-third of the company’s overall business.

PolicyBazaar is growing fast enough to attract interest from the world’s largest tech investor, SoftBank Group, which is in advanced talks to invest in the company.

According to a Mint analysis, PolicyBazaar was the only consumer internet start-up that reported a net profit in the year to March 2017.

Founder: Yashish Dahiya 
Year:
 2008 
Key investors:
 IDG Ventures, Info Edge, Inventus Capital, PremjiInvest, Temasek, and Tiger Global Management
Funds raised: $165 million
Last valuation: $500 million (October 2017)

Oyo Rooms (Oravel Stays Pvt. Ltd)

Oyo was one of the breakout start-ups from the funding boom of 2015, raising a surprise $100 million from SoftBank in August that year. It struggled to live up to its initial promise and, after a wild expansion spree, the hotel brand was hit by customer complaints about its poor service and low room occupancy rates.

In the past year, however, Oyo has seen a turnaround, driven by its effort to gain full control of the room inventory on its platform. Its occupancy rates and net promoter score (a measure of customer satisfaction) have both improved significantly.

Mint reported in March that Oyo was in talks to raise up to $800 million. When that round goes through, Oyo will become one of India’s top five most valuable start-ups, marking the stunning rise of its founder, Ritesh Agarwal, who is yet to turn 25 years of age.

Founder: Ritesh Agarwal 
Year:
 2014 
Key investors:
 DSG Consumer Partners, Greenoaks, Lightspeed Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and SoftBank Group 
Funds raised:
 $450 million 
Last valuation:
 $930 million (October 2017)

Rivigo (Rivigo Services Pvt. Ltd)

In the booming technology-enabled logistics sector, where a number of promising ventures have emerged over the past decade, Rivigo has come up with a unique approach.

It operates a “driver relay” model, which is different from the traditional logistics model of using multiple vehicles to transfer loads from different points.

The Gurugram-based firm already owns an impressive fleet of trucks and has set ambitious targets to grow that fleet over the next five years.

However, Rivigo is facing significant roadblocks. It has been hit by a spate of senior executive departures. The strength of its model will also be tested as a bunch of its several-thousand trucks age. For now, it’s riding high on its initial success.

Founders: Deepak Garg, and Gazal Kalra 
Year:
 2014 
Key investors:
 SAIF Partners, and Warburg Pincus
Funds raised:
 $170 million 
Last valuation:
 $980 million (December 2017) 

Swiggy (Bundl Technologies Pvt. Ltd)

Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

The largest food delivery start-up is also one of the country’s largest consumer internet start-ups by volume.

It currently delivers 120,000-150,000 orders a day across 12 cities in India, far ahead of rivals Zomato and Foodpanda.

Along with Oyo, Swiggy is the only true breakout start-up to emerge from the funding boom of 2014-15 that has otherwise yielded few successes.

In less than four years of its launch, Swiggy has expanded rapidly even as early rival TinyOwl failed to survive.

Swiggy’s surge, driven by its excellent logistics operation, has even led to a recent revival in investments in food delivery, a market that was once written off.

The company is the favourite to maintain its leadership position in the market despite competition from Zomato, Uber and Ola.

Swiggy is currently in talks to raise as much as $200 million in its next round, Mint reported in April. When that round goes through, it will easily exceed $1 billion in valuation.

Founders: Nandan Reddy, Rahul Jaimini, and Sriharsha Majety 
Year:
 2014 
Key investors:
 Accel Partners, Bessemer Venture, Meituan, Naspers, Norwest Venture, and SAIF Partners 
Funds raised:
 $260 million 
Last valuation:
 $800 million (January 2018)livemint