From its inaugural unicorn in 2011, the Indian startup ecosystem has flourished to nurture an impressive tally of 110 unicorns, establishing an impressive 8.8% share of the global count.
In the dawn of 2011, the Indian startup InMobi achieved the coveted $1 billion valuation, preceding the coinage of the term 'unicorn'. Merely two years afterward, in 2013, venture capitalist Aileen Lee coined the phrase, signifying startups that emerged as 'rare' billion-dollar private tech endeavors. Over the ensuing decade, Indian unicorns have not only captivated the nation but have also sent ripples across the global landscape.
Growth of Unicorns in India
The narrative of the Indian startup ecosystem has been nothing short of remarkable. With its first unicorn minted in 2011, India's startup realm has undergone an unprecedented expansion, fostering a staggering 110 unicorns that constitute a notable 8.8% of the worldwide total. The journey is accentuated by milestones - India saw a modest 42 unicorns by 2020, a number that surged to 87 by the conclusion of 2021. However, the subsequent period until September 2022 witnessed the emergence of a mere 22 unicorns due to macroeconomic fluctuations.
Startup Zyber 365 successfully raised 100 million dollars in its Series A funding round from the UK-based SRAM & MRAM Group making it the 1st Unicorn from India for the year 2023, after a dry spell.
What stands out is that a select few venture capital (VC) and private equity (PE) firms have emerged as the primary backers of Indian unicorns. Here are the top investors in Indian Unicorns.
Tiger Global: Fostering Growth Across Stages
Tiger Global, a prominent name since its entry in 2007, has emerged as a prolific investor within the Indian startup ecosystem. Its broad focus spans from Series A to pre-IPO stage startups. Presently, the New York-based VC giant nurtures 39 Indian unicorns in its portfolio. Renowned names like Flipkart, Bharatpe, and NoBroker find a place among its remarkable investments. In June 2023, the firm raised an impressive $2.7 billion for its 16th fund, albeit falling short of its initial $6 billion target.
Peak XV Ventures: Pioneering Investment Dynamics
Once known as Sequoia India, Peak XV Partners has solidified its standing as a key investor within the Indian startup domain. Since its India foray in 2006 through the acquisition of Westbridge Capital Partners, this VC firm has left its mark on numerous Indian startups spanning diverse sectors. Pioneering global investment within India's startup wave, Peak XV Partners has historically supported names such as Flipkart, Paytm, and BYJU’S. Backed by assets worth $9 billion under management, it boasts a track record of investing in over 400 Indian startups. Impressively, 37 of these have ascended to unicorn status, with some even entering the public markets.
SoftBank: Global Vision, Indian Focus
Hailing from Japan, SoftBank operates a global fund called SoftBank Vision Fund, which engages with tech-oriented startups on a global scale. Notably, SoftBank has infused $15 billion into homegrown startups, elevating India as its third-largest market, rivaling the US and China. The tech investor's influence extends to 22 Indian unicorns, including household names like Ola, Paytm, and Blinkit (formerly Grofers). Encouragingly, four unicorns within its Indian portfolio, such as Swiggy, Lenskart, FirstCry, and OfBusiness, are poised to make a mark in the public sphere.
Innoven Capital: Venturing into the Debt Domain
Since its inception in 2008, InnoVen Capital, with backing from Temasek, has emerged as a major player in India's venture debt landscape. It has endorsed 200 startups to date and deployed over $800 million on a global scale. Focusing on early and growth stage tech-based startups, it operates not only in India but also in China and parts of Southeast Asia. In India, InnoVen Capital's prowess shines through its support for 19 Indian unicorns, including Myntra, OYO, BYJU’S, PharmEasy, and VerSe Innovation (parent company of Dailyhunt).
Trifecta Capital: Bridging Financial Gaps
Founded by Nilesh Kothari and Rahul Khanna in 2015, Trifecta Capital offers both equity and debt funding to startups. It supplements this with financial advisory services for its portfolio startups. With over $600 million in assets under management, Trifecta zeroes in on startups spanning various sectors such as consumer services, consumer brands, ecommerce, mobility, edtech, and agritech. The firm boasts of investing more than INR 5,500 crore in Indian startups since its inception. This impressive record includes 25 unicorns, prominent among them being Meesho, NoBroker, BharatPe, Urban Company, Licious, and Rebel Foods.
Accel India: Catalyzing Growth Since Inception
Originating from the US, Accel marked its presence as an early global investor within India's burgeoning startup landscape. Its Indian journey commenced in 2005 with the acquisition of the $10 million early-stage fund, Erasmic Venture Fund, which later assumed the name Accel India. Across its India trajectory, it has launched seven funds and invested across diverse sectors. This versatile investor, covering stages from seed to growth, has accumulated a cumulative portfolio valuation surpassing $100 billion as of mid-2022. With an impressive 22 unicorns in its fold, Accel India's investments include notable names such as Flipkart, Chargebee, Freshworks, Vedantu, BookMyShow, Myntra, Moglix, Ninjacart, and Swiggy.
The journey of Indian unicorns is one of relentless growth, strategic backing, and global resonance. As India's startup ecosystem continues to evolve, these pioneering investors are poised to catalyze the nation's ascent on the world stage.