On the Fast Track: India's Trailblazing Unicorn Companies

On the Fast Track: India's Trailblazing Unicorn Companies
India's Trailblazing Unicorn Companies

In recent years, India has witnessed a remarkable surge in startups achieving the prestigious "unicorn" status. These privately held startup companies, valued at over $1 billion, signify the vibrant growth of India's startup ecosystem. While the United States and China lead globally in the number of unicorns, India has secured a spot in the top three countries, showcasing the rapid development of its startup landscape.

Several Indian startups have attained unicorn status unprecedentedly, earning the title of fastest unicorn. This growth can be attributed to factors such as increasing smartphone and internet penetration, urbanization, rising disposable incomes, and substantial funding opportunities supported by government initiatives like Startup India and Digital India.

This article analyzes some rapidly evolving Indian firms that have quickly earned association in the elite unicorn club. These fastest unicorns' unique ideas have gained funding and validation from top global investors. They are also driving a revolution in India's major industries.

Krutrim
Mensa Brands
GlobalBees
OLA Electric
Udaan
Apna
BharatPe
Swiggy
Glance

Krutrim

Company Krutrim
Founded December 2023
Founders Bhavish Aggarwal and Krishnamurthy Venugopala Tenneti
India's Unicorn Companies - Krutrim
India's Unicorn Companies - Krutrim

Launched in December 2023, Krutrim Ai Designs was founded by Bhavish Aggarwal and Krishnamurthy Venugopala Tenneti. Krutrim is a large language model (LLM) that comes in two versions: the base Krutrim model, which comprehends 22 Indian languages and can generate content in 10 languages, and the more advanced Krutrim Pro.

Developed entirely in India, Krutrim aims to align with Indian cultural nuances and cost structures to support the advancement of AI in the country. In a remarkable feat, Krutrim swiftly secured $50 million in funding, catapulting its valuation to an impressive $1 billion. This rapid ascent not only marks Krutrim as India's first unicorn of 2024 but also positions it as the fastest startup in the country to achieve this milestone, accomplishing it within just one month of launching its large language model.


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Mensa Brands

Company Mensa Brands
Founded May 2021
Founder Ananth Narayanan
India's Unicorn Companies - Mensa Brands
India's Unicorn Companies - Mensa Brands

Mensa Brands is a technology-led investment platform that helps founders of digital-first brands grow their businesses using data, technology, and team expertise. It is an Indian startup that acquires direct-to-consumer brands and helps them scale within the home market and overseas. Mensa Brands currently houses 12 brands, 80% of which are run by women, and operate in three categories- apparel, beauty and personal care, and home. 

Mensa became a unicorn, with a valuation of more than one billion dollars, just six months after it was founded. Ananth Narayanan launched it in May 2021; by November 2021, it was a unicorn. It raised $135 million in a Series B fundraising round headed by Falcon Edge's Alpha Wave Ventures, valued at $1.2 billion.

GlobalBees

Company GlobalBees
Founded 2021
Founders Nitin Agarwal and Supam Maheshwari
India's Unicorn Companies - GlobalBees
India's Unicorn Companies - GlobalBees

GlobalBees, founded in 2021 by Nitin Agarwal and Supam Maheshwari, brings digitally native brands into its fold, spanning various categories like beauty, personal care, home and kitchen, food and nutrition, and sports and lifestyle. These brands typically generate revenue ranging from $1 million to $20 million. GlobalBees assists these firms in expanding their reach by partnering with them and facilitating sales through marketplaces and other channels, both within India and internationally.

In December 2021, GlobalBees achieved unicorn status after successfully raising $110 million in its Series B funding round. The round was spearheaded by Premji Invest, the investment firm led by Wipro's Azim Premji, with participation from existing investors, including Steadview Capital, Lightspeed, SoftBank, and FirstCry. With this infusion of funds, GlobalBees aimed to strengthen its product portfolio, drive further innovation, enhance the customer experience, recruit top talent, and scale its operations.


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OLA Electric

Company OLA Electric
Founded 2017
Founder Bhavish Aggarwal
India's Unicorn Companies - OLA Electric
India's Unicorn Companies - OLA Electric

Ola Electric is an electric vehicle (EV) company dedicated to shaping a brighter, safer, and more sustainable future. Its vision is to establish India as the global hub for EVs by fostering an ecosystem of innovative products, services, and technologies. Ola Electric offers the Ola S1 electric scooter in variants like the Ola S1 Air, Ola S1X, Ola S1, and S1 Pro.

The company's manufacturing facility, sprawled across a 500-acre, fully automated complex in Pochampalli town, Krishnagiri district, Tamil Nadu, is set to become the world's largest two-wheeler factory. With an impressive annual production capacity of 10 million units, it aims to revolutionize the EV industry globally.

Ola Electric achieved unicorn status within just two years of its founding, having raised $250 million from SoftBank in a Series B funding round. This investment valued Ola Electric at over $1 billion, solidifying its position as a key player in the EV market. Additionally, Bhavish Aggarwal, the company's founder, announced plans to establish the Battery Innovation Center (BIC) in Bangalore. This facility, considered Asia's largest Cell R&D facility, signifies Ola Electric's commitment to driving innovation and advancing EV technology.

Udaan

Company Udaan
Founded 2016
Founders Sujeet Kumar, Amod Malviya, and Vaibhav Gupta
India's Unicorn Companies - Udaan
India's Unicorn Companies - Udaan

Udaan, established in late 2016 by former Flipkart executives Sujeet Kumar, Amod Malviya, and Vaibhav Gupta, is a unique B2B marketplace connecting manufacturers and wholesalers with retailers online. Unlike many startups, Udaan operates without a CEO by choice, setting it apart in the industry.

The platform simplifies the onboarding process for merchants, requiring minimal information, and provides effective catalog tools for product presentation. This creates a dynamic, two-way channel for trade, enhancing the overall user experience. Additionally, Udaan offers various services, such as credit financing and logistics, to facilitate connections between manufacturers and retailers. Notably, Udaan's logistics service, Udaan Express, handles 65% of the company's orders, further streamlining operations.

Recognized as one of the fastest companies to achieve unicorn status, Udaan attained this milestone in September 2018. This underscores its rapid growth and success within the B2B marketplace, solidifying its position as a leader in the industry.


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Apna

Company Apna
Founded September 2021
Founder Nirmit Parikh
India's Unicorn Companies - Apna
India's Unicorn Companies - Apna

On September 15th, 2021, Bengaluru-based Apna achieved unicorn status after securing $100 million in Series C funding led by Tiger Global, valuing the company at $1.1 billion. This remarkable milestone was reached just 21 months after its inception.

Apna provides a platform for job seekers to create profiles showcasing their skills, education, and work experience. Users can search for job opportunities, directly contact companies, schedule interviews, and ultimately secure employment. With India boasting over 300 million blue-collar workers, which is expected to rise annually by approximately 10%, platforms like Apna hold immense potential in this sector. Apna has a robust user base of 16 million individuals, with over 150,000 businesses utilizing the platform for recruitment. Impressively, apna facilitates more than 18 million job interviews every month, underscoring its significance in the Indian job market.


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BharatPe

Company BharatPe
Founded April 2018
Founders Ashneer Grover and Shasvat Nakrani
India's Unicorn Companies - BharatPe
India's Unicorn Companies - BharatPe

BharatPe is an Indian fintech firm formed in 2018. It offers a QR code-based payment solution software that enables offline businesses and shops to accept digital payments. It was created by Ashneer Grover and Shasvat Nakrani, both IIT Delhi alumni. 

It enables retailers to accept payments from over 100 mobile apps with a single QR code that is automatically deposited to their bank account in real-time. The firm has experienced tremendous development, with a monthly transaction value of INR 1500 crores. It is the fourth largest player in the offline payments industry. It raised $370 million in a primary and secondary mix as part of a Series E investment round led by a new investor, New York-based Tiger Global Management. It propelled it to the list of Unicorn Companies.


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Swiggy

Company Swiggy
Founded August 2014
Founders Sriharsha Majety, Nandan Reddy, and Rahul Jaimini

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Founded in 2014 by Sriharsha Majety, Nandan Reddy, and Rahul Jaimini, Swiggy is an Indian online food delivery platform. The founders, despite facing setbacks in previous ventures, pooled their expertise from IIT/IIM backgrounds and startup experience to launch Swiggy. The surge in India's urban population and the rise of nuclear families where both partners work have fueled the demand for FoodTech services like on-demand delivery, cloud kitchens, and restaurant discovery.

Swiggy distinguished itself by prioritizing logistics and operating its delivery fleet instead of relying on restaurants or third-party services. This strategic move provided a significant competitive edge. Recently, Swiggy joined India's unicorn club after securing $210 million in funding led by DST and Naspers, valuing the company at $1.2 billion. The funds were utilized to expand its supply chain network, venture into new markets, and bolster its engineering and technology teams.


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Glance

Company Glance
Founded 2019
Founders Naveen Tewari, Abhay Singhal, Mohit Saxena, and Piyush Shah
India's Unicorn Companies - Swiggy
India's Unicorn Companies - Swiggy

Glance is an Indian artificial intelligence-based software company that delivers personalized content directly to smartphone lock screens. Its mission is to transform mobile shopping through a unique creator-led commerce strategy, leveraging influencers and celebrities to promote products directly to users on their phone's lock screen. Co-founded in 2019 by Naveen Tewari, Abhay Singhal, Mohit Saxena, and Piyush Shah, Glance operates as a subsidiary of InMobi.

In an impressive feat, Glance achieved unicorn status within just 20 months by securing $145 million in primary investment from Google and existing investor Mithril Capital. This substantial funding valued Glance at over $1 billion, cementing its status as one of India's fastest-growing startups at the time.

Glance acquired Roposo, a short-form video platform, to further enhance its offerings to integrate vernacular video content into its platform. The funding was also directed towards strengthening AI capabilities across Glance and Roposo, expanding the technology team, launching new services, enhancing the brand, and facilitating global expansion.

FAQs

Which are the key sectors driving the emergence of fast-growing unicorns?

Key sectors driving the emergence of fast-growing unicorns include financial services, software-as-a-service (SaaS), logistics, transportation, and education technology.

When did Mensa Brands become a unicorn?

Mensa Brands became a unicorn, with a valuation of more than one billion dollars, just six months after it was founded. It raised $135 million in a Series B fundraising round headed by Falcon Edge's Alpha Wave Ventures, valued at $1.2 billion.

What is Apna?

Apna provides a platform for job seekers to create profiles showcasing their skills, education, and work experience. Users can search for job opportunities, directly contact companies, schedule interviews, and ultimately secure employment.

Which are rapidly evolving Indian unicorn firms?

Some rapidly evolving Indian firms that have quickly earned association in the elite unicorn club are as follows:

  • Krutrim
  • Mensa Brands
  • Apna
  • BharatPe
  • GlobalBees
  • Udaan
  • Glance
  • Ola Electric
  • Swiggy

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