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Once upon a time, unicorn startups — private companies with a valuation over $1 billion — were a rare breed. Today, there are more than 400 unicorns around the world, and India stands third behind the US and China in the number of unicorns. In fact, India is expected to have 100 unicorns by the year 2025, according to Nasscom’s report, “Indian Tech Startup Ecosystem 2019.”
India is home to some of the most innovative startups in the world, across various domains ranging from fintech, health-tech, ed-tech to hospitality and more. Read on to learn more about India’s four biggest unicorns.
Noida-based digital payments giant Paytm was founded in 2010 by Vijay Shekhar Sharma. What started as a prepaid mobile and direct-to-home recharge platform turned into India’s most valued fintech startup in less than a decade. In November 2019, Paytm raised $1 billion in funding, taking its valuation to $16 billion.
The company launched Paytm Wallet in 2014 and soon become one of the most used payment platforms in India. Over the next few years, Paytm expanded into the e-commerce sector through ticket bookings and online deals. In 2017, the platform became India’s first-ever payments app to cross 100 million downloads. Today, the organization has more than 150 million active monthly users and an overall user base of about 400 million.
During FY19, Paytm managed to cross $50 billion in gross transaction value against 5.5 billion transactions. While Paytm’s parent company One97 Communications saw huge losses in FY19, the firm is hopeful about turning profitable and is looking to launch an IPO in the next couple of years.
One97 Communications has raised capital from such investors as Alibaba Group, SoftBank, Ratan Tata, Ant Financial, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, T. Rowe Price, SAIF Partners and Mountain Capital.
Bengaluru-based e-commerce giant Flipkart was founded in 2007 by former Amazon employees Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal. The company has had one of the most interesting journeys through the decade, from acquiring new business segments to the exit of both founders.
In 2014, Flipkart acquired e-tailer Myntra for $300 million. And in 2016, it bought another fashion e-tailer, Jabong, through Myntra in a deal worth $70 million. Both e-tailers have emerged as key sale drivers for Flipkart. Then in 2016, the company acquired PhonePe wallet, which enabled it to strengthen its payment platform and also allowed it to compete with Paytm in the digital payments space.
In 2018, US-based retail giant Walmart acquired Flipkart in a massive $16 billion deal, which shook the Indian startup ecosystem. This deal proved to prompt extremely profitable exits for both the cofounders and other investors.
Flipkart continues to expand its presence in India through various acquisitions and expansions. The company saw its revenues grow by 42 percent in FY19 from the previous fiscal year.
Flipkart has raised funding from marquee investors like SoftBank, Tiger Global Management, Morgan Stanley, Naspers, ICONIQ Capital, Accel Partners, DST Global, Sofina and Steadview Capital.
Gurugram-based hospitality unicorn OYO was founded in 2012 by Ritesh Agarwal. The Indian hospitality brand has forayed into international markets by expanding its presence across Malaysia, the UAE, UK, China, Indonesia, Nepal and Japan. The company also entered the wedding industry by launching Auto Party and acquiring wedding marketplace Weddingz in 2018. The same year, OYO acquired co-working startup Innov8, a move that enabled it to enter the coworking space under its brand OYO Workspaces.
The company is currently valued at $10 billion, based on its latest round of funding. OYO has secured funding from the likes of Sequoia Capital, Didi Chuxing, SoftBank, Airbnb, Grab, Innoven Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Greenoaks Capital.
Bengaluru-based ed-tech giant Byju’s was founded in 2011 by Byju Raveendran and Divya Gokulnath. Byju’s is India’s leading ed-tech unicorn with a valuation of $8 billion, boasting more than 40 million subscribers, 2.8 million of which are paid subscribers.
While many of India’s unicorns struggle to make money, Byju’s has managed to achieve a two-fold jump in revenue for the financial year that ended on March 31, 2020. The ed-tech unicorn is a leader in India’s online education space, which is expected to reach $1.96 billion by 2021, according to a report by KPMG. Flush with cash and already profitable, Byju’s is well-equipped to lead and disrupt India’s online education market in the next decade.
So far, Byju’s has raised money from such investors as General Atlantic, Tencent Holdings, Qatar Investment Authority, Prosus & Naspers, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Sofina, Sequoia Capital and Verlinvest, among other investors.