BENGALURU: 42 unicorns in India, a 16-year-old shipping a crypto product, record amount of funding every quarter – 2021 has yielded some positive trends in the startup scene. Experts believe that if the year 2020 witnessed acceleration among venture capitalists (VC) funding startups, 2021 has seen a bigger boom. Now, startup founders, in fact, don’t just look for capital, but are expecting VC firms and angel investors to bring more value to the table in terms of accessing top talents and reaching clients in the US and Europe.
Interestingly, the term ‘startup’ also created a buzz among school and college students this year, where VCs rolled out fellowship programmes to encourage more students to turn entrepreneurs. With Freshworks, Zomato, Paytm, Nykaa also opening their IPOs this year, a lot of Indian startups transitioned from being a subculture to mainstream phenomena with the growing amount of enthusiasm from retail investors for startup IPOs.
Bridging the gap
If students thought their startup ideas were not getting the right traction and funding, this year has been a treat for them. For example, Antler, a VC firm has introduced a fellowship programme – Antler India Fellowship – to identify top 10 student entrepreneurs in India and offer them an equity-free grant of $20,000 and mentorship to translate their startup ideas into reality. Bengaluru-based Karan Prasad, who is working as an investment associate at Antler, says, “We have received over 2,500 applications across India with the youngest applicant being 11 years old. The startup ideas of students are just out of the box, with many focusing on ed-tech, blockchain human wellness, mental health and healthcare. It goes to show that introducing the concept of startups to students can give rise to early entrepreneurs in India.”
Change in playbook
Roshan Cariappa, host of podcasts like The Startup Operator and Bharatvaarta, noticed that startup models like SaaS, D2C (direct to consumer), got their moment of reckoning this year. From scaling a local D2C brand to building consumer applications and taking it to global markets, the native Indian startup playbook is coming of age, feels Cariappa, adding, “Indian engineering talent is in demand like never before with companies actively outbidding each other and even competing with global companies. This is causing massive wealth creation.”
IPO, Cryptos and Audio apps
With top brands like Nykaa, Paytm, Zomato going ahead and listing their companies in the market, Varun Mayya, a content creator, believes that the real cash is now entering the pockets of investors. Besides, he also feels that 2020 saw an inclination towards audio chat in apps (Clubhouse), but the trend fizzled out in 2021. “The buzz word of 2021 was ‘cryptos’. Many such startups are now working on the pseudonymity model, where crypto entrepreneurs are going anonymous to avoid the risk of being exposed to online attacks. However, transitioning to 2022, startups will focus more on delivering ‘convenience’,” says Mayya.
Devaiah Bopanna, a writer and media entrepreneur, felt Kunal Bagaria, a 16-year-old from Assam was his favourite entrepreneur of the year who shipped a Web 3 product called Wagmi.bio that solved and made payments easier on the Solana blockchain. He also adds, “Ed-tech and fin-tech startups ruled the startup space in 2020 after the pandemic set in. However, the electric vehicle revolution was one of the biggest ideas that gained traction this year. The conversation around cryptos also zoomed this year and the biggest testimony is Bagaria, who made invoicing easier on the Solana blockchain and shipped one of the globally-appreciated crypto products to the world this year.”
Highlights of 2021
Zomato, Paytm, Nykaa, Freshworks, LIC publicly listed
OLA launches electric vehicle fleet
Buying and trading crypto witnesses all-time high
42 startups accorded unicorn status in 2021