The 5 New Unicorns Born During India’s Lockdown

Samridhi Singh November 18, 2020
Downtown Mumbai
Downtown Mumbai. Editorial Credit: Towering Goals, Shutterstock

The Indian GDP saw a drop of 23.9% in the last quarter, the worst contraction in the past 4 decades. The startup sector was no less jolted; according to a report by TiE Delhi-NCR, there was a 50% plunge in overall funding during the lockdown, while almost 40% of startups were negatively impacted, 44% now have cash runway of less than 6 months, and over 15% were forced to close shop.

Despite the pandemic and the economic crisis that ensued, some industries were able to weather the storm better than others because of the boom in digital consumption. India, today, is home to 21 unicorns valued at $73.2 billion (Hurun Research Institute), and five of these joined the club after February 2020.

From online beauty retailers to stock trading, here are the five Indian companies that became unicorns during the pandemic.

Nykaa

Founded by Falguni Nayar in 2012, Nykaa is India’s largest fashion and beauty retailer, with over 1500 brands (including its in-house brand) and 1.5 million orders every month. Apart from e-commerce, Nykaa also has 70 brick-and-mortar stores across the country.

During the 3-month-long nationwide lockdown, when most online retailers shut down shop, Nykaa was able to step up its game to take pre-paid orders and deliver beauty products to over 15,000 zip codes across the country. In March 2020, the company received an investment of $13.5 million from London-based Steadview Capital, increasing its valuation to $1.2 billion.

Zerodha

Stock-trading platform Zerodha made headlines in June 2020 with a self-assessed valuation of $1 billion. A decade old company founded by brothers Nikhil and Nithin Kamath, Zerodha is bootstrapped and has never raised capital from investors. This year, the company decided to buy back its shares given to employees at 5X the book value. While 4X-5X is typically the book value given to a brokerage firm, Nikhil explained that this, in fact, is fairly conservative; had Zerodha been valued as a tech company, the number would have been a lot higher.

During the pandemic-led economic crisis, the Indian startup saw record growth. The sharp fall in stock prices saw an influx of first-time investors on the Zerodha platform (less than 1.5% of the Indian population invests in the stock market). This led to the doubling of average monthly users on the platform from 2019 to 200,000 users - driving up the total to nearly 2.8 million.

Unacademy

With schools and universities thrown off gear this year, online education surged by 30% across the country. Riding this e-learning boom is Unacademy, an edtech company that grew 3x in revenues, views and watch-time this year. Started in 2015 by Roman Saini, Gaurav Munjal, and Hemesh Singh as a Youtube channel, today Unacademy is one of India’s largest online learning platforms with 18,000 teachers and 350,000 students.

In September 2020, the Bangalore-based company raised a $150 million Series F round led by SoftBank, valuing it at $1.45 billion.

Postman

Based in Bangalore and San Francisco, Postman is the fastest SaaS startup in the country to join the billion-dollar club. The company raised $150 million in its Series C, led by U.S.-based Insight Partners, with a valuation of $2 billion.

Founded in 2014 by Abhijit Kane, Abhinav Asthana, and Ankit Sobi, Postman is a developer-led platform for API development with a big focus on collaboration and sharing. The platform is used by 10 million developers and 500,000 companies globally including Paypal, Twitter, and Dropbox.

Razorpay

With $100 million from Singapore-based GIC and Sequoia Capital India, Fintech startup Razorpay is the latest company to receive the unicorn status in October 2020.

Harshil Mathur and Shashank Kumar started Razorpay in 2014 as a payment processing platform for small businesses. Fast forward 6 years and the company is now the first and largest converged payments solution company in the country - addressing the entire payment journey for any business. Razorpay’s mission is to simplify payments and the company focuses heavily on essentials such as superior checkout experience and 24x7 support.

Currently, Razorpay has 5 million businesses using the platform with the goal to reach 10 million by the end of 2020 and 50 million by 2025.

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