Welcome To The Land Of Rising Unicorns—India

Welcome To The Land Of Rising Unicorns—India

When the world was grappling with Coronavirus and the economic slowdown caused by the lockdown, India’s unicorn story was scaling new heights with 33 start-ups becoming unicorns this year. Indian unicorns showed a rare immunity against the Coronavirus proving to be resilient in the face of many economic perils.

The lockdown became a blessing in disguise for Indian start-ups as it accelerated the online switch. People who never bought a salt packet online were procuring their monthly groceries online.

This triggered a near frenzy among start-ups to scale up and grow to become unicorns. The Coronavirus failed to lock the entrepreneurial spirit of the new Indian. The Indian entrepreneur took the lockdown as a challenge and found innovative ways to overcome the hurdles put by it and emerged victorious.

Unicorn is a term from the venture capital industry first coined by Aileen Lee, the founder of Cowboy. She used the word unicorn to refer to any start-up that is valued at $1 billion or more. A total of 33 such start-ups made it to the unicorn club of India this year in 2021. It means $33 billion companies in just 12 months.

It is a record that is being lauded the world over. India is now the third top country to be hosting unicorns with a total of 54 unicorns, just behind the United States and China. The US is at the top of the heap with 487 unicorns followed by China with 301 unicorns. The 54 unicorns are in the domestic arena, but there are 65 unicorns run by Indians outside India as well.

An on-demand delivery unicorn called Instacart based in the US, a fintech unicorn called CLIP based in Mexico, a gaming unicorn called Improbable based in the UK, an e-commerce unicorn Moglix based in Singapore, and an e-commerce unicorn based in Germany called Omio.

All these companies are either run by an Indian or have an Indian co-founder.


The first Indian start-up to become a unicorn was Inmobi in the year 2011. After then, it has been almost a flood of start-ups and unicorns.

India’s unicorn story witnessed many firsts in 2021. India got its first health tech unicorn Innovaccer, the first social commerce unicorn Meesho, and the first e-pharmacy unicorn pharm-easy.

In India, the city of Bengaluru hosts the maximum number of unicorns followed by Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Gurugram.

In terms of value, Byjus leads the pack at $21 billion. Inmobi, a mobile ad-tech firm, is the second-most valuable unicorn in India, valued at $12 billion.

Oyo Rooms, founded by 28-year-old Ritesh Agarwal, is valued at $9 billion.

Among the new members of the unicorn club of India are companies like digit, cred, zeta, BharatPe, COINSWITCH Kuber, MobiKwik, Ola Cabs, Byjus, Swiggy, lenskart and MyGlamm along with many others. It is raining unicorns in India.

What is puzzling the business world is how did so many unicorns come up in India in a single year, especially when businesses around the world are collapsing because of the pandemic. Industry experts point at three factors for this phenomenon.

The first reason is a thriving digital payment ecosystem that penetrated every aspect of life during the pandemic.

A total of 44 million digital payments were recorded this year. This helped start-ups expand their customer base. The second factor is a large Smartphone user base.

With work-from-home becoming the norm due to lockdowns, Smartphones have become more important than ever in our lives.

India’s Smartphone market reached a record 173 million units in 2021 registering a 14% rise in just one year.

This made a lot of start-ups more accessible to Indians. The third factor which contributed majorly to this boom is a digital-first business model tailor-made for a digital ecosystem.

The digital ecosystem got created by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative called Digital India which created the trinity of Jan Dhan bank accounts, mobile phones and Aadhaar number. Collectively, they digitized the whole of India.

Taking cue from this fact, almost every start-up adopted a digital-first approach where the business is personalized, prioritizes customer engagement, and is technologically advanced. It relies on a data-driven strategy to expand

. A confluence of these factors is driving India’s Unicorn boom. On average, India is producing three unicorns a month. Reports say this figure will only grow in the coming year with hundreds of new start-ups raring to go hoping that lockdown restrictions will be further reduced.

A start-up is a young company that is selling a unique product or service and is founded by one or more entrepreneurs and initially funded by their founders, families or friends. Their entire focus is on making life easier for customers or clients which helps them become household names in no time.

Today, India has more than 55,000 recognized start-ups with many of them being Unicorns. Indians today have more disposable income than a decade ago as a result they are buying more products and services than ever before.

This demand for new products and services is helping the start-ups grow, providing them with the necessary buoyancy to stay afloat. There is a massive flow of talent because of the higher education ecosystem that is in place.

Coupled with expertise in the IT sector, the start-up ecosystem has attained critical mass and is unstoppable. Foreign investors are willing to put their money on Indian start-ups as they see India having still untapped growth potential.

Today India’s start-up sector is valued at $315 billion employing more than 5,00,000 people. A thriving start-up ecosystem, progressive government policies, capital investors and the brilliance of Indian talent are all keeping the Indian dream alive and kicking.

If you ever had a unique idea that you thought could make a brilliant product but were scared of taking the plunge or risking your saving, then this is the time to kick aside all those inhibitions and apprehensions and jump right in as now is the best time to start-up. As they say, it is never too late to start-up.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma

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