73 years ago, on this day, India finally became an independent nation.
So Vedica and I thought, today might be a good day to reflect about the history of startups in our country and talk about a couple of our favorite startups. We’d also love to hear from y’all about your favorite Indian startups- they could be old like Flipkart or new like Khatabook. Let’s celebrate all the great founders & their companies in this country today.
I'm gonna kick things off and talk about a couple of companies that I've been a huge fan of since I've come across them:
- Flipkart: Flipkart was probably the first "startup" I came across as a highschool student interested in all things tech. I still remember using the website back in 2011 to buy a couple of books (I believe Hunger Games: Mockingjay was one of the first books I bought on Flipkart). Flipkart had to build a lot of India's eCommerce infrastructure from scratch including cash on delivery. I think the founders & company also showed you can build a massive tech giant in the country and compete with the world's best.
- Razorpay: Razorpay is still probably one of my favorite Indian companies when it comes to their documentation & design. I had previously used Stripe in college for hackathon projects and when I first came across Razorpay, I was blown away by the developer experience. I had previously heard horror stories about Indian banks' APIs, and Razorpay was so delightful to integrate and use.
- Khatabook: I've got to admit I was quite late to learning about Khatabook, I hadn't heard of the company until the company raised their Series A and I quite didn't understand it at the beginning. But I've come to realize the company is serving a very core need for Kiranas & SMEs all over the country and their scale & coverage throughout the company has been incredible. They're also truly a product for India (and not something adopted/copied from the US) and it's also cool that companies in other countries are copying Khatabook & OkCredit (BukuWarung in Indonesia)
I love what Srinath Ravichandran at Agnikul is trying to do.
Most government space orgs launch satellites of 1000+ kgs into space. Agnikul wants to build launch vehicles for satellites <500kgs. They plan to launch their first vehicle by 2021
Startups and space make for an exciting combination :D And Agnikul could be India's first space-tech success story
I’m going old school and choosing naukri.com, the job portal that connects employers and prospective applicants. (In all honesty, I’ve not used the website, though I have browsed it). Naukri is a great example of the first generation of internet companies in India. It was founded in 1997, went public in 2006 and has a market cap of ~400B INR. We often think that start-ups are a relatively recent phenomena in India, but Naukri is a great example of how entrepreneurs seized the opportunity when the internet first came to India ~25 years ago; and one that had a successful exit to boot!
Postman - A software product that’s truly original coming from an Indian team. Backed by a strong product and sustainable revenue streams. Have been using this product since 3 years ago and always wondered how no one heard of it.
Swiggy - Probably the most efficient hyperlocal operations in the world. The last mile stack built by Swiggy / Dunzo and the costs they operate with are burn intensive but am sure will still be cheapest in the world even after the burn stops. Ever tried to order a cupcake in London ? Costs 15 pounds for delivery ! The investment into building their own fleet and taking responsibility for the value chain is what I feel sometimes goes under appreciated.
Phone Pe - A few years ago, India has a brand new payments rails called UPI and everyone is discovering use cases. I feel Phone Pe was the first to really understand how to build features that address consumer use cases. Most of the banks had early access to UPI but spent time building obvious payment journeys that were like select the vpa and make a payment.
If you see the use cases phone pe worked on like abstracting the VPA and internal fund transfer you will start to understand that they really understood how to build product.
It’s a separate story that gpay launched a gamified cashback feature and stole all the thunder but I still feel they are a product heavyweight.
BookMyShow - Coming from the ages where venture scale startups didn’t exist in India, it was my first experience as a teenager that I found a software that could fix my physical world problem of having to wait in a line to book a ticket at the movies.
All my favorite companies up there :)
Personally I am a fan of Unacademy and Gaurav Munjal. It's not just how successful the company is and how they are going about expanding their suite of products with experiments such as Graphy but how Gaurav has given back to the community.
I have heard great stuff about him from every founder I have talked to and I hope this positive sum attitude builds on in the Indian Startup Ecosystem.
Among my favourite ones is Taaraka.
It is an app that captures a very dominant need of the urge to know your day/week/month/life ahead and coupled with its UI/UX, they are successfully reaching the right audience. It would be very interesting to know about their metrics etc. I love them.
Great idea, Anmol.
Highlighting my favorite companies from Indian startup ecosystem:
1. PhonePe: Started by ex-Flipkart employees, they were the first to realize the potential of UPI in a predominantly cash-based society like India and build for that platform. Looking at UPI monthly transactions volume now, that bet turned out to be incredible.
2. Dealshare.in: Building ecommerce for Indians from Tier-2 and 3 cities. Massively under-served market with earnings less than 25k per month. Sourcing from local manufacturers to get the best prices for that target segment. I am really glad that the team looked beyond the typical tier-1 consumer and build a valuable (cheap and convenient) for the greater Bharat out there.
Freshworks: I'm not sure if it still qualifies as Indian considering they have moved their headquarters to the Bay Area. Its inspiring to see a Indian company take on global companies with a truly differentiated product with high quality (Zendesk, Salesforce). This has enabled a huge Saas startup ecosystem in Chennai, which otherwise did not have a lot of startups before. Another quirk was seeing them take the battle right to Salesforce's Dreamforce conference. https://www.thedrum.com/news/2018/10/16/freshworks-takes-salesforce-with-blimp-and-other-out-home-weapons
My choice would be Bewakoof. It's a brand that I identify myself with and have become a loyal customer. I really like their adaptive strategies and their core principle of providing affordable casual fashion to the youth. They are widely known for their Quirky designs and quotes.
During the lockdown, they launched quirky face masks and have introduced schemes to increase loyalty.
Overall I feel they have a very good understanding of their customer and being just over 10 years old in India, they have done a phenomenal job.
Don’t think this thread would be complete without mentioning Ola. The incorporation of cash and auto rickshaws into the ride-sharing/hailing sphere seem so obvious looking back and the security features such as the code the customer needs to provide before the ride begins were clever additions. Furthermore, even if its been a decade, I think it could serve as a blueprint for innovation now that we might be at a potential regulatory inflection point for Indian startups after the Chinese App ban. (eg. Kaagaz Scanner)
My favorites are :
1. Postman : Most of the startups in India focus on building for India, Postman is made in India and built for the world. Many major software companies around the world rely on Postman for API testing. There is a lesson that many can learn from Postman.
2. OYO - Another example of the above yet has created an enormous impact around the globe. the story of the founder is a lesson for founders in India.
3. CRED - What I love about CRED is how it was built in public and focused more on feedbacks by taking user polls and thought experiments. This startups is quite innovative as they focus more on what user wants and at the same time, solve a very big problem of credit card payments.
These are my picks and thoughts.