In 2013, venture capitalist Aileen Lee coined the term unicorn to capture the extreme rarity of startups valued at $1 billion or above. Normally, the mythical creature is endlessly searched for and never found but in the world of tech, 186 wound up at our service.
Some of them originated in and are still headquartered in Bangalore, others moved here to hoover up the technical talent in the city. Many of them are direct competitors to existing companies like Uber, Amazon and Paypal and have in fact managed to beat many of them to it.
Nasscom’s Product Council chairman, Ravi Gururaj summarised Bangalore’s role as fertilising ground for startups as follows:
“Why do you loot a bank? Because that’s where the money is,” he said. “Why do unicorns grow in Bengaluru? Because that’s where the nurturing ecosystem is – you discover talent, connect with investors, hire from MNC R&D centres and large IT service companies, learn from other peer startups and enjoy great weather. All these make Bengaluru India’s most attractive city for leading startups.”
Here we introduce you to India’s billion dollar startup club.
Founded in 2007 by the brothers Sachin and Binny Bansal, e-commerce platform, Flipkart, snapped the top spot on the list of Indian unicorns with a valuation of $15 billion. The company which operates exclusively in India employs more than 20.000 people and has 26 million registered users.
Like Amazon, Flipkart started in the small as your good old online bookshelf but quickly expanded into areas of apparels, electronics and lifestyle products.
When trying to distill the operations of the ecosystem, it is interesting to note that 177 startups have been founded by former employees at Flipkart. It demonstrates the workings of a successful and vibrant ecosystem where the dissemination of technical knowledge branches out throughout the city and the country as a whole.
Valued at $5 billion, Ola stands out as yet another star on the Bangalore sky. In fact, the ride-hailing app managed to dethrone Uber in India with 60 per cent of the market share. Ola has more than 500.000 cars and rickshaws on the road in more than 100 cities across India.
Ola moved its headquarters from Mumbai to Bangalore to get a headstart on software. The online cab aggregator has dug deep into its pockets on its technology Ola Offline, which allows customers to book a cab with low or no internet, being one example of the company’s efforts to elevate customer experience and mobility.
Besides perfecting the algorithms of peak pricing, Ola Innovation Labs has compiled a technical portfolio of services such as in-car WiFi, the entertainment system Ola Play, and Ola Select.
Ola is also one of the first Indian mobility apps to bring about its integration with Apple’s iOS10, allowing iPhone and iPad users to book an Ola cab using Siri or an Apple watch.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, InMobi became the first Indian startup to acquire the much-coveted unicorn tag. Like Ola, InMobi relocated to Bangalore from Mumbai to dive deep into the pool of technical talent and paddle around an ecosystem that generously feeds its booming startup scene.
InMobi is fast elbowing its way into the ad tech space mingling with the likes of Google and Facebook. Its software development tools are integrated in more than 30.000 apps allowing it to extract a plenitude of information about users. Through that InMobi customises ads with a global reach of over 1.5 billion unique mobile devices.
The unicorn’s presence in markets like China has fired it onto a growth trajectory ensuring profitability in a club of companies often bemoaned for lacking the same. Its partnership with Apus opened up the stream full throttle increasing revenues in China 15-fold. The company’s touchdown in the US accounts for 30% of its revenue.
Marketing itself as India’s first online classifieds platform, this Craiglist-equivalent has more than 30 million users every month in more than 1000 cities across India. Its operations take place from its headquarters in Bangalore
Real estate and blue-collar job offerings constitute its largest verticals with 5 million job applications appearing every month through the site but also include used goods and cars. A deliberate strategy to widen and deepen its operations has been to gobble up competitors which currently account for 55% of Quikr’s revenue.
Like several other companies on this list, Quikr started out in Mumbai but moved its headquarters to Bangalore to capitalise on the cornucopia of technical skills. The moved enabled the company to launch things like the messaging service, QuikrNXT, and QuikrJobs. In fact, 80% of its revenue is generated through its mobile apps.
It was on humble conditions that Dhiraj Rajaram set up Mu Sigma in 2004, but the company quickly accelerated. Headquartered in Bangalore’s Whitefield, the data analytics firm joined the billion dollar startup club in 2013 taking onboard high profile clients such as Microsoft, Dell and Walmart. In fact, Mu Sigma counts more than 140 clients from among Fortune 500 companies.
Valued at $1 billion, Mu Sigma became the first Indian unicorn to turn a profit, later joined by InMobi and managed to secure the largest funding round ever by a business analytics company.
With big data at the core of its business, Mu Sigma’s spiced up its approach to programming and business analysis by getting onboard applied mathematicians, professional analysts and programmers, also internally known as a decision scientists. The company has nurtured an environment where work morphs into part design studio, part research lab, and part data factory. This holistic approach to data and a flat hierarchy that encourages curiosity, innovation and exchange are what set Mu Sigma apart on a market crammed with competitors.
Although not all of India’s unicorns originated in Bangalore, the majority have relocated their headquarters to the city to extract the technical expertise propelling their software beyond the borders facing many startups across the world.