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Country Guide

India

India
Pratik Poddar

Guest Editor

Pratik Poddar

Principal at Nexus Venture Partners

Pratik Poddar is a venture capitalist at Nexus Venture Partners, India's largest homegrown venture capital firm. Before joining Nexus, Pratik was an entrepreneur who founded startups in the content marketing and social commerce spaces. Early in his career, he worked as an analyst at Blackstone and Morgan Stanley. Note: this Editor’s Guide includes excerpts from a previous blog post written by Pratik and updated for this page.

Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind? Nominate a country guest editor.

Disclaimer: all content within the Startup Ecosystem Summary and Editor’s Guide sections is written by and reflects the personal perspective of the guest editor. The guest editor is not responsible for content within the Country Snapshot and Community sections, as much of this content is compiled from external sources and does not necessarily reflect the guest editor’s view.

Startup ecosystem summary

Key Startup Cities

Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi/NCR

Connected Country Ecosystems

US (cross-border SaaS startups), China (investors)

Differentiators

  • Large population new to the internet
  • Affordability and accessibility of high speed mobile internet
  • Prevalence of basic tech talent

Challenges

  • Lack of capital
  • Limited domestic enterprise software market
  • Indian entrepreneurs’ copy-paste model from the US and China means markets become too competitive too quickly

Editor's Guide

Introduction

With rapidly rising disposable incomes among India’s middle class (India has the fastest growing major GDP economy in the world), access to increasingly affordable smartphones (smartphone penetration increased from 6% in 2013 to 24% by the end of 2018), availability of high speed mobile internet (at just US$0.26 / GB compared to US$12.37 / GB in the US, and US$9.89 / GB in China), and a growing presence of investors that cumulatively invested US$13.88 billion in Indian startups in 2018, India is ripe for disruption by savvy entrepreneurs who are willing to go the extra mile.

Outlook

Long perceived as a copycat market for ideas from the West, the Indian startup scene is reinventing itself by building exclusively for the next billion Indians who are entering the digital realm for the first time. The Great Indian Startup Ecosystem is taking a shape of its own (very different from the US and China), and is building for people who have leapfrogged several use cases. Many unique models have emerged that will redefine how Indians interact with technology over the years to come. However, challenges do exist: scarcity of high quality talent and liquidity for investors are still preventing the ecosystem from reaching its full potential. Some interesting spaces include financial services companies on top of new payments infrastructure, personal and enterprise mobility solutions, next generation e-commerce, technology based enablement of agent/broker networks, and user generated content creation and consumption.

Focus Industries

Editor’s choice of the industries with the most potential for technology disruption and growth.

E-commerceE-commerce startups have been in the limelight of the India startup story for the last few years. However, we are learning that traditional e-commerce platforms don’t tap into all the natural buying behaviours of a large proportion of Indians. In a "family oriented" economy like India, most consumers have traditionally made purchases along with their friends or relatives, or based on a trusted recommendation. “E-commerce 2.0” startups are tapping into this behaviour by leveraging existing platforms such as WhatsApp and Instagram to facilitate recommendations leading to transactions. Reseller models like Meesho, Shop101, and Glowroad where individuals recommend items to people on their network through social media platforms have gained impressive traction and are a win-win for all the parties involved. Resellers, typically stay at home wives, are empowered to start a business of their own, and customers can discover items that are better curated for them. Newer models like commerce on top of video-based product catalogues, live streaming by sellers, social media influencer based selling, WhatsApp based sharing for group purchases, WhatsApp based retailers etc. are now popping up and showing immense potential.
FintechTraditional financial institutions are on the cusp of disruption because of the government's push for digitization. The introduction of the United Payment Interface (UPI) by the National Payments Corporation of India in 2016 marked a fundamental shift in the way Indians interact with money. UPI facilitates real-time bank to bank transfers and has opened up a world of new possibilities by making payments a utility and reducing the costs. In 2019, UPI overtook both credit and debit cards in total transaction value, standing at US$14.6 billion in the month of May, according to the National Payment Corporation of India, the operator of UPI. More than 780 million UPI transactions took place in May 2019--an all time high. Innovative tech-enabled models continue to emerge in insurance, lending, wealth management, and neo-banking. With a GDP per capita of ~US$2000, India lags behind its BRICS counterparts by a factor of four. India’s household debt to GDP ratio is ~11% (compared to ~49% for China and ~77% in the US), insurance penetration is ~3.5% (compared to a global average of ~6.2%). Formal financial services are vastly under-penetrated in the market primarily because of the cost of distribution and operations for small ticket size products.
MobilityWith public transportation systems such as metros still in their early days of development, and private transportation being increasingly viewed as less convenient and unaffordable, some Indians have turned to the likes of Ola and Uber for their daily commutes. However, out of the 300 million commuters each day, taxis/four-wheelers account for 15 million (5%) and two-wheelers for 75 million (25%) with the remaining 200 million commutes (70%) still happening through public transportation and other modes. Even on a gigantic scale, the majority of Indians are still unserved by Ola and Uber taxis. Seizing the gap in the market, several startups offering more affordable rides have emerged including bike taxis, self-drive scooters that can be picked up and dropped off anywhere, and planned bus rides for intra-city commutes.

Featured Tech Startups

Editor’s choice of the country’s top 10 emerging tech startups.

Talent

Editor’s perspective of the maturity level of talent in the ecosystem.

  • Technical TalentModerate
  • Marketing TalentAdvanced
  • Experienced TalentModerate
  • International TalentUndeveloped

Culture and History

Editor’s commentary on how the country’s culture and history have impacted the ecosystem.

India has more than 48 million small businesses, more than twice the number of small businesses in the US. Indians have been enterprising for decades perhaps due to limited opportunities in the corporate sector until the brink of the century. Secondly, although India has a long way to go in terms of tech talent, India’s IT boom in the 1990s and 2000s created a large pool of technical talent that is evolving into product and deep technology talent, creating a fairly strong base in the country. Lastly, unlike previous governments, the Modi government has recognized the role of startups in propelling the economy forward and has launched several programs to help cultivate the ecosystem.

Guest editors are local ecosystem leaders: successful founders, investors, or thought leaders. Have someone in mind?

Country Snapshot

Economy

Startup funding
Startup funding
US$14.5 billion (2019)
Standard of living
Standard of living
Global rank: 147
Innovation
Innovation
Global rank: 52
Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship
Global rank: 68
Annual GDP growth
Annual GDP growth
6.8% (Global avg. 3.0%)
Ease of doing business
Ease of doing business
Global rank: 63
Ease of starting a business
Ease of starting a business
Global rank: 136
Research and development
Research and development
0.6% of GDP (Global avg. 2.3%)
Contract enforcement
Contract enforcement
Global rank: 163

Sources

Startup Funding: Tracxn
STANDARD OF LIVING: International Monetary Fund - GDP per capita (PPP)
INNOVATION: Global Innovation Index
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Global Entrepreneurship Index
ANNUAL GDP GROWTH: World Bank
EASE OF DOING BUSINESS: World Bank
EASE OF STARTING A BUSINESS: World Bank
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT: World Bank
CONTRACT ENFORCEMENT: World Bank

Society

Population
Population
1.4 billion
Government
Government
Federal Parliamentary Republic
Stability
Stability
Global rank: 91
Internet usage
Internet usage
34.5%
Smartphone usage
Smartphone usage
27.7%
Literacy
Literacy
69%
Population under 15
Population under 15
27%
Median age
Median age
28.1

Sources

POPULATION: Worldometers
GOVERNMENT: The World Factbook
STABILITY: Global Innovation Index
INTERNET USAGE: International Telecommunications Union
SMARTPHONE USAGE: Newzoo
LITERACY: World Atlas
POPULATION UNDER 15: World Bank
MEDIAN AGE: The World Factbook

Community

Active Investors

Blume Ventures (Mumbai): Seed stage investor.

General Atlantic India (Mumbai): A global firm that invested in four Indian startups in 2019.

IDG Ventures India/Chiratae Ventures (Bangalore, New Delhi): Invests across the consumer media & technology, fintech, healthtech, and software/SaaS sectors. (Source: IDG Ventures India/Chiratae Ventures)

Inventus Capital Partners (Bangalore): Inventus India is an early stage Venture Capital firm that invests in Series A rounds in technology focussed companies. It invests across sectors in both B2B and B2C areas. Inventus Capital Partners raised two previous funds in 2008 and 2013. For the third fund, the team restructured itself into funds based on geography – India and US. (Source: Inventus Capital Partners)

Lightspeed India (Bangalore, New Delhi): Invests in early and growth-stage technology companies with a strong base of operations in India, targeting India and/or global markets in consumer and enterprise. (Source: Lightspeed India)

Matrix Partners India (Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi): Invests between the Seed and Series B stages. (Source: Matrix Partners India)

Nexus Venture Partners (Bangalore, Mumbai)

Sabre Partners India (Mumbai): Sabre Partners is an India focused private equity fund.

SAIF Partners (Bangalore)

Seedfund (Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi): An early-stage VC fund.

Sequoia Capital India (Bangalore, Mumbai, New Delhi)

Steadview Capital India (Hong Kong): A leading global private equity firm with several investments in Indian startups, including ride-hailing service Ola, education app Unacademy and fintech startup BharatPe. (Source: Steadview)

incubators

Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE) (Ahmedabad): A startup incubator established by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA). (Source: CIIE)

Khosla Labs (Bangalore)

Startup Village/SV.CO (Kochi): A digital incubator program and learning platform for student developers. (Source: SV.CO)

UnLtd India (Mumbai): An incubator focused on social entrepreneurship.

WeHub (Hyderabad): A government-funded program providing incubation and mentorship to women from rural and urban areas in India. (Source: WeHub)

accelerators

50k Accelerator (Hyderabad): A four-month program to help startups with their go-to market strategy and execution, business development, and enterprise customer engagement. It conducts a tri-annual programme with three startups in each batch. The core team consists of top executives and entrepreneurs from companies including Hitachi Consulting, BlackBerry, Tech Atlantis, and RedBus. (Source: Inc42)

Axilor (Bangalore): A 100 day accelerator program and seed fund.

GSF Accelerator (Gurugram): A 13-week program that aims to provide selected startups with unparalleled access to venture and business networks, personalised and intensive mentoring, and initial capital. The selected Indian tech startups must relocate themselves to NCR for the duration of the programme. It provides accommodations to those entrepreneurs who come from outside NCR. Furthermore, shortlisted startups have to complete phone screens and an in-person interview with the investment team before being called up. (Source: Inc42)

Kyron Accelerator (Bangalore): A gateway for B2B startups to access corporate customers. Kyron started as an accelerator programme, with a duration of three-four months. It later pivoted to Corporate Acceleration/Innovation/Digital Transformation providers. It identifies opportunities offered by Fortune 500 companies and links them to innovative solutions offered by startups to maximize value and make it a win-win on both sides. At present, it runs four programmes in partnership with Lowe’s Innovation Labs, LEAP, InsurTech, and Anscelerator. (Source: Inc42)

Target Accelerator (Bangalore): Aims to help early-stage startups to develop concepts that could improve Target’s business and the broader retail industry. Through the four-month intensive programme, Target aims to foster a culture of innovation in the startup ecosystem. It is looking to tap into the startup ecosystem while providing startups with an opportunity to work with the Target leadership team in a specially designed, energetic, and creative hub at Target India’s office in Manyata Tech Park, Bengaluru. (Source: Inc42)

TLabs (Bangalore): Founded in 2011, TLabs is a startup accelerator as well as an early stage seed-fund for Indian internet and mobile technology startups.

Venture Catalysts (Country-wide): Venture Catalysts is India’s top incubator for startups. Its integrated approach offers funding, mentorship and network of CXOs, successful founders, unicorns, deep tech product experts. It has a present across Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kolkata, Raipur, Surat, Nagpur, Jaipur, Kochi and Dubai UAE, and Hong Kong. It invests in the range of US$500,000 to US$1 million. (Source: Venture Catalysts)

Venture Nursery (Mumbai): India’s first angel-backed start-up accelerator. Established in March 2012 by two like-minded Angel Investors -Shravan Shroff, Founder and former MD, Fame Cinemas and Ravi Kiran, former CEO-South East & South Asia, Starcom MediaVest Group and Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Friends of Ambition, the accelerator runs its physical premises out of Mumbai, India. (Source: Venture Nursery)

Startups Raising Capital

There’s more to be discovered! Help us showcase this startup community by adding information.

Startups Hiring

There’s more to be discovered! Help us showcase this startup community by adding information.

Coworking Spaces/Hubs

91Springboard (Country-wide)

Awfis (Country-wide)

BHIVE (Bangalore)

Cowrks (Country-wide)

Indiqube (Bangalore)

Innov8 India (Country-wide)

InnoWorks (Mumbai): A coworking space managed by leading Indian accelerator Venture Catalysts.

MyHQ (New Delhi)

WeWork India (Country-wide)

conferences

ad:tech New Delhi (New Delhi): India's #1 marketing and media technology event, where marketing, technology and media communities come together to share new ways of thinking. (Source: Bizzabo)

Gartner Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit (Mumbai): This conference features in-depth research and advanced best practices in application strategies, business application management, mobile applications, modern application architecture, and emerging technologies including advances in Blockchain. (Source: Bizzabo)

Open Data Science Conference India (Bangalore): ODSC is one of the biggest specialized data science events, with a focus on impactful tools and leading industry practices. Our speakers include core contributors to many open source products used by data scientists all over the world. (Source: Bizzabo)

TechHR India (Gurugram): Asia’s largest HR technology conference.

UnPluggd (Bangalore): UnPluggd is a two-day conference created by NextBigWhat and focused on technology, product, and entrepreneurship. It is meant to bring together entrepreneurs, CXOs, Growth Experts, Geeks and Product Managers from all over India. (Source: UnPluggd)

Yourstory TechSparks (Bangalore): Since 2010, TechSparks has become a benchmark platform where startups, emerging business leaders, corporate executives, policy makers, investors, innovators & media houses converge to discuss, debate and develop ideas & engagements that build and shape the technology, innovation & entrepreneurship narrative in India. (Source: TechSparks)

meetups

Government Programs

Atal Innovation Mission (AIM): Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is Government of India’s flagship initiative to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the country. AIM’s objective is to develop new programs and policies for fostering innovation in different sectors of the economy, provide platform and collaboration opportunities for different stakeholders, create awareness and create an umbrella structure to oversee innovation ecosystem of the country. Programs include Atal Tinkering Labs (ATL) and Atal Incubation Centers (AIC). (Source: AIM)

National Initiative for Development and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI): An umbrella program for nurturing ideas and innovations (knowledge-based and technology-driven) into successful startups. (Source: NIDHI)

Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI): The Principal Financial Institution for Promotion, Financing and Development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) sector. (Source: SIDBI)

Startup India: Startup India is a flagship initiative of the Government of India, intended to catalyse startup culture and build a strong and inclusive ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in India. (Source: Startup India)

Non-Government Organizations

Action for India: A non-profit organization that helps India’s social enterprises address their challenges by providing them with access to technology, investors, mentorship, government agencies, local partners and business development support. (Source: Action for India)

How India Transformed Internet Connectivity For Hundreds Of Millions

By: Jani PashaFebruary 17th, 2020
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