India may see as many as 45 startup unicorns in the next 12-18 months, adding to the rush of companies with a valuation of $1 billion and above. Over 40 local startups joined the elite unicorn club last year amid a funding frenzy on the startup street. Consider Bengaluru-based startup Mensa Brands that turned unicorn in a span of six months, becoming the fastest company to achieve the feat. Already three startups — Mamaearth, Fractal and LEAD School have attained the unicorn status this year.
More consumers are subscribing to digital services offered by new age companies, nudging investors to bet on the country’s growing league of startups. Funding for startups nearly tripled to about $30 billion in 2021, data earlier sourced from market research firm Tracxn showed.
Zepto, Fresh To Home, Ninjacart, Purplle, Practo, Open, DeHaat and Khatabook are among the startups that feature on the soonicorn list compiled by PGA Labs, the market research unit of Praxis Global Alliance. Fintech leads the sectoral pack, holding the potential to add 15 unicorns. Logistics and agritech are the other segments that are likely to add the highest number of unicorns in the coming months. The two sectors jointly may create 13 unicorns, according to the data.
In fact, a separate report by Orios Venture Partners showed that the fintech space led India’s unicorn count in 2021 with 11 unicorns. The segment also boasts of the highest number of unicorns in the country with 18 unicorns followed by the e-commerce space that is estimated to have 15 unicorns in all.
Interestingly, it has taken an average of 7.8 years to make a unicorn in 2021, lower than 9.9 years which was the case in 2020. “The trend that is noticeable here is that time has been reducing, as founders with prior founding or startup experience are coming into play,” analysts said in the report.
Explaining the heightened investor interest in the fintech space, Shishir Mankad, managing partner and head of financial services at Praxis Global Alliance, says that the financial services sector is relevant for every industry given the variety of use cases that the segment generates. “Financial transactions provide very valuable data to get insights about customers,” says Mankad.
Besides, India’s open financial architecture has acted as an enabler for the fintech space. For instance, the UPI, Aadhar and even the KYC have been built on an open architecture.
“This allows for far more scalability compared to a market like China. Fintech has a large canvas to play on,” says Mankad.
He points out that the ecosystem is evolving and a spate of fintech startups are solving for emerging problems like gaps in credit delivery among others. “The investor funding in fintech has evolved from consumer focused solutions like payments that have already scaled up substantially to applications that are being created to solve next generation problems,” adds Mankad.
Bengaluru remains the country’s startup hub and houses about 20 of the 45 estimated soonicorns. About 10 soonicorns are based in Delhi-NCR and another six in Chennai. Mumbai lags with an estimated tally of 5 soonicorns, data by PGA Labs showed.
Bengaluru and Delhi also added the most startups in the billion-dollar valuation club in 2021 with 18 and 13 unicorns, respectively. About 11 startups that turned unicorn last year are based in Mumbai. Among non-metros, Jaipur joined the list of unicorn cities in 2021 with CarDekho, according to the report by Orios Venture Partners.