A city with two names and 22 million people– Mumbai, nostalgically still called Bombay, is truly a city of dreams. Just like its landscape, which is an archipelago of many tiny islands, Mumbai is made up of a million dreams. In fact, with a GDP of $209 billion, the capital city of Maharashtra is the wealthiest in the country. Yet, there is a strange irony.
India’s newest trophy to the world, its booming startup ecosystem, started not in Delhi or Mumbai, but down south in Bengaluru, about 10 years ago. A startup is the realisation of an idea, which refused to stay a dream. Yet, Mumbai failed to catch up with the booming startup ecosystem till about four years ago.
So what happened, and is happening, in Mumbai? Angel investor and Co-founder of hiring platform CoCubes Harpreet Singh Grover, an IIT-Bombay alumni of 2005, says that starting up was unheard of, till SMS GupShup happened in 2008. “It evolved only in the last three-four years, with more funding, and the creation of Housing and Ola,” he says.
Mumbai has always been home to small and medium scale companies bootstrapping in the retail, manufacturing, finance, and hospitality sectors. Holachef Founder Saurabh Saxena, who graduated from IIT Bombay in 2004, says that at the time, starting up meant trying to make mini IT companies. He adds: “Over time, startups with a superior understanding of technology have dared to dream more ambitiously. It has also helped that equity financing has been more widespread than ever.”
Many entrepreneurs came to Mumbai, saw it, but none seem to have conquered it yet. How do you thrive in Mumbai then?
City of dreams
If every city you live in shapes you as a person, Mumbai shapes you as an entrepreneur too. Nischal Shetty, Co-founder of social media marketing platform Crowdfire, says that growing up in Mumbai helped him understand a diversified set of users better, and hence in building a global product. “Mumbai is the city where you meet people who have come in from every part of the country. This helps you understand different cultures and different thought processes.”
Being a melting pot of cultures, Mumbai presents various opportunities to entrepreneurs. In Holachef’s case, Saurabh says, it is the variety in audience that make up their target audience: people looking for regional food from their native place.
The city’s taste towards glamour is also visible in its startups. Shikhar Khanna, Co-founder of online fashion rental platform Blinge, says: “For a startup in fashion industry, Mumbai is the best place. “There are a lot of designers as well as Bollywood aspirants and models who provide our supply.” He adds that although the fashion rental concept is new in India, Mumbai generally adapts to the latest trends easily. According to Shikhar, Mumbaikars also ready to adapted to technology as a medium for transactions.
Being the financial capital of the country, Mumbai is the headquarters of banks like HSBC and Axis, and regulatory bodies like RBI and SEBI; not to forget the Bombay Stock Exchange itself. Hence, it is no surprise that the city has a monopoly over startups in financial technology, aka fin-tech.
In fact, it was the ambition in fin-tech that pushed Manish Patel, Founder and CEO of mobile POS solution provider Mswipe Technologies, to choose Mumbai. “There is a mature talent pool here in the financial sector. Mumbai still accounts for 20 percent of national market share for the financial services,” he says.
A recent report by KPMG and Nasscom had stated that the Indian fin-tech market will see 100 percent growth in the next four years to $2.4 billion from $1.2 billion. The timing is perfect for startups in the space to announce their arrival. In fact, Mumbai’s startup ecosystem depends more on experienced professionals in the financial sector rather than on pure tech talent. Access to more banks and consulting firms also adds weight to it. Many fin-tech startups, including Transerv, Epaylater, Neogrowth, and CreditVidya, are based here.