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2021 can officially be called the year of unicorns in India. The South Asian nation saw some of the world’s most powerful VCs minting 40 local billion-dollar companies in the first 11 months of the year, as compared to 11 unicorns in 2020. But that is sort of expected when investors are willing to flush billions of dollars into the local startup ecosystem.
Between January and November 2021, VC firms invested USD 31.4 billion in Indian startups, as per the data collated by Venture Intelligence. A sizable chunk of this capital flowed in last month, which saw investors writing checks worth USD 4.3 billion and catapulting seven startups into unicorns.
Several emerging sectors—social commerce, D2C, cryptocurrency, proptech, cloud kitchen, got their first unicorns as VCs remained bullish amid massive digitization.
For this week’s big read, which is also the first story in our year-in-review series, KrASIA took a close look at VC firms that churned out unicorns one after another in India this year
The Big Read
For Indian startup entrepreneurs, it’s the year that brought unprecedented amounts of capital, investor interest, growth opportunities, and IPO ambitions. But there was also mounting pressure to perform, justify valuations, become profitable, and offer good exits.
The local startup community sizzled throughout the year as unicorns kept popping up, one after another, on the back of fat checks and expensive valuations. As we write this piece, 40 unicorns have been created in India in the first 11 months this year, and the number is expected to climb.
Among the investor community that pumped over USD 30 billion into the country so far this year, a few stand out with their ability to churn out unicorns. It is these bigwigs of the VC world that fueled the funding deluge in the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem.KrASIA looked at these unicorn-hunters—the VCs that turned the most numbers of Indian startups into billion-dollar companies this year—and their investment theses.
The Weekly Buzz
1. Uber partners with Meta to roll out cab-booking service on WhatsApp in India. The move extends both Uber’s customer reach and WhatsApp’s service offerings in India. The tie-up, which also marks the first of such an alliance between Uber and Meta globally, will enable Uber to leverage Meta-owned WhatsApp’s massive 500-million user base in India, its largest overseas market. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in the South Asian nation.
2. Tiger Global makes first bet in Indian cloud kitchen space with EatClub Brands. The New York-headquartered hedge fund, which was on an Indian unicorn-minting journey and turned four more startups into billion-dollar companies just last week, struck again with its latest investment in EatClub Brands, leading a USD 40 million round in the Mumbai-based startup in a deal that marks the US mega fund’s first bet in the country’s cloud kitchen space.
3. Indian edtech firms ramp up overseas acquisitions in global expansion push. Recently, Mumbai-based online higher education startup upGrad agreed to acquire Global Study Partners, Australia’s leading study abroad startup. Earlier this year, Byju’s acquired two California-based education startups—reading platform Epic and creative coding platform Tynker. Similarly, online executive education firm Eruditus acquired iD Tech, a California-based kids-focused startup in May 2021 to strengthen its global presence.
4. Byju’s is close to acquiring campus recruitment platform Superset amid hiring spree in India for USD 20–25 million. Five-year-old Superset offers a SaaS platform that streamlines the campus recruitment process for colleges and enables employers to reach young talent across the nation. By taking Superset under its wings, Byju’s will be able to tap the service for its USD 18 billion empire’s growing talent demand.
Q&A Of The Week
Purplle is India’s second-largest beauty and personal care e-commerce marketplace after Nykaa, which recently went public. The company’s in-house D2C beauty brands account for more than one-third of its revenue.
The nine-year-old startup recently closed a USD 140 million investment at a valuation of USD 630 million. It will use the capital to open new brick-and-mortar stores next year, acquire D2C brands and content companies, and ramp up content-led marketing.
In an interview with KrASIA, Manish Taneja, Purplle’s co-founder and CEO spoke about Purplle’s journey, its focus on tier 2 and tier 3 consumers, the emerging trends in the D2C beauty space, and how Nykaa’s listing is reshaping the segment.