Why Are Investors' Interests Rising in Small-Town Startups?

How is the entrepreneurial landscape evolving in India's tier 2&3 cities? What drives investor interest in small-town startups, challenging conventional wisdom? Discover the transformative potential and challenges faced by these startups. Read on.

Swati Dayal
New Update
Aona Time Aayega

TICE Creative Image

In the ever-evolving narrative of India's entrepreneurial ecosystem, a new chapter is being written—one that shines a spotlight on the ingenuity brewing in the heart of tier 2 and tier 3 cities. A recent report by the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) unveils the  story of burgeoning investor interest in small-town startups, painting a picture of promise and potential for India's economic future. Contrary to conventional wisdom, which often revolves around metropolitan powerhouses, the report underscores the pivotal role that smaller cities play in driving innovation and economic growth.

The Changing Face of India's Economic Landscape

According to the report, the future of indigenous startups in India, particularly in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, appears remarkably promising. Fueled by a robust GDP growth rate and supported by factors such as enhanced digital infrastructure and government initiatives, these regions have emerged as fertile grounds for entrepreneurial endeavors. The surge in entrepreneurial activities challenges preconceived notions about the dominance of tier 1 cities, signaling a dynamic shift in the entrepreneurial landscape.

Tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India will play an increasingly significant role in the nation's economic landscape, according to a report by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER). The report projects a rise in the contribution of these cities to India's GDP from 40% in 2015 to 45% by 2025, underscoring their growing economic importance.

Tier 1 & 2 Startups Graph

With nearly 45% of the urban population residing in tier 2 and tier 3 cities, as indicated by data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, these cities are pivotal in driving economic growth and development. The expected population growth in these cities from 42.3 crore in 2020 to 63.1 crore by 2040 presents a fertile ground for startups and innovation, promising significant economic opportunities. This transformative phase marks the expanding role of these cities in India's economic development, fueled by innovation, entrepreneurship, and urban population growth, positioning them as key contributors to India's global economic ascent.

Rising Investor Confidence

One of the most striking revelations of the report is the escalating investor interest in small-town start-ups. Venture capitalists, private equity firms, and investors are increasingly recognizing the potential of these small-town hubs, pouring in substantial investments. Data also suggests that tech startups from tier 2 and tier 3 cities are projected to grow 2.2 times by 2025 compared to 2022, indicating a significant uptick in investor confidence.

The economic importance of tier 2 and tier 3 cities within the national context cannot be overstated. Reports from the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) indicate that these cities are expected to contribute significantly to India's GDP, highlighting their pivotal role in the country's economic landscape. With nearly half of the urban population residing in these cities, the demographic shift presents a ripe opportunity for start-ups to thrive and drive economic development.

Startup population

Startups from tier 2 and tier 3 cities are not just a product of economic necessity; they are catalysts of innovation and change. Government data reveals that 50% of recognized start-ups are from these cities, reflecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of an inclusive India. The escalating trend in start-up funding further cements the growing recognition of these regions as lucrative investment hubs, potentially catalyzing entrepreneurial growth and economic development.

The report states that the funding secured by start-ups in tier 2 and tier 3 cities for 2021, 2022 and 2023 has increased YoY. The graph highlights the financial support garnered by startups within these tiers, offering insights into their funding trajectories over the three-year period.

Tier 1&2 Startup Funding

Challenges and Opportunities for Small Town Startups

Despite the promising trajectory, start-ups in tier 2 and tier 3 cities face unique challenges. Limited access to incubation centers, disparities in funding, and scalability issues pose formidable hurdles for entrepreneurs. However, government initiatives such as Startup India and StandUp India are playing a pivotal role in addressing these challenges, fostering a supportive ecosystem for small-town ventures.

Initiatives such as financial assistance, incubation centers, and skill development programs are empowering budding entrepreneurs in rural areas. Schemes like Startup India and StandUp India offer financial support, mentorship, and infrastructure, leveling the playing field for small-town ventures.

Small Town Unicorns and Economic Growth

India boasts over 100 unicorns, with 52% originating from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In 2022, 22 new unicorns emerged, totaling USD 29.2 billion. The trajectory points towards more Indian unicorns reaching decacorn status (USD10 billion valuation), shaping the nation's economic future. Startups play a pivotal role, driving job creation, skill development, innovation, and foreign investment attraction, transforming the employment landscape. Exponential growth in employment, depicted in the chart below, underscores the agile and innovative nature of start-ups, fostering diverse roles, attracting skilled talent, and contributing significantly to sustained economic growth in cities.

jobs created by tier 1&2 startups

As India marches towards its economic future, the narrative of entrepreneurship is being rewritten. Tier 2 and tier 3 cities are emerging as the new frontier of innovation and economic growth, fueled by a convergence of factors—from digital infrastructure to government support. 

Join Our Thriving Entrepreneurial Community



Follow TICE News on Social Media and create a strong community of Talent, Ideas, Capital, and Entrepreneurship. YouTube  | Linkedin | X (Twittrer) | Facebook | News Letters