Pune has been Mumbai’s satellite town for decades. But it looks like it has come of age for entrepreneurs. With an efficient startup ecosystem evolving, Pune is rising in health tech, SAAS, automobile, etc., although it lags behind the metros in terms of food tech and e-commerce.
Pune has a lot of ex-enterprise resources in products and services, as well as a rich pool of tech developers, product managers, and software managers. India’s largest education hub, Pune boasts of Symbiosis University, Bharati Vidyapeeth, Maharashtra Institute of Technology, Vishwakarma Institute of Technology, and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, among others.
Not as big as Bengaluru or Mumbai or Delhi but closer to Hyderabad in terms of the growth of startup ecosystem, Pune surely has the potential to accommodate more. Sanjay Nath, Co-founder and Managing Partner of early-stage VC firm Blume Ventures, says that unlike Mumbai, where startups are begun by Mumbai natives or graduates of IIT-Bombay, Pune is a city where people are willing to move to. “Like Bengaluru, employees and future recruits are willing to move to Pune. Also, they have multiple opportunities.” An example is Shachin Bharadwaj, CEO of Sminq – a queue management company, who moved from Bengaluru to make Pune his home.
SAAS startups Helpshift, Druva, and Mindtickle, online seller of baby products Firstcry, on demand cars platform Letsride, have been the most prominent among Pune-based startups. In fact, a major chunk of funding for Pune startups in 2016 so far came to HelpShift, with $23 million from Microsoft Ventures and Salesforce Ventures in June. While Delhi, Bengaluru, and Mumbai has had 188, 156, and 100 deals so far this year, Pune has had only 27. But this does not mean that the ecosystem is slow-paced. The following 10 startups are set to be the next disruptors from Pune.
- Plobal provides a do-it-yourself (DIY) native app development platform, and claims to help offline businesses and early-stage startups develop their own app in less than 10 minutes. Plobal Apps claims to have more than 500 clients and over 1,000 apps across Hospitality and Lifestyle sectors. The two-year-old startup has now partnered with international e-commerce player Shopify to help their merchants launch powerful mobile apps.
- Altizon Systems is an Internet of Things (IoT) platform that helps enterprises build IoT products and solutions in weeks by providing device connectivity kits, a device management layer, a scalable, real-time, big-data analytics engine and alerting and monitoring services. In February 2016, they closed a $4 million round of Series A funding from Wipro Ventures, Lumis Partners, The Hive, and Infuse Ventures.
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- Arcatron Mobility designs smart wheelchairs to assist people with limited mobility. It is launching what it claims to be India’s first shower and commode wheelchair designed to ease the process of using the restroom and taking a bath for individuals with limited mobility. In March this year, it raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from angel investors. It also won $100,000 worth of free credits from Google at the Surge conference this year.
- Tork Motorcycles focuses on creating practical electric mobility solutions in India. In April, they raised an undisclosed amount of angel funding from investors including Bhavish Agarwal and Ankit Bhati, Co-founders of Ola, and Harpreet Grover, Co-founder and CEO of CoCubes. Founded in 2009 by Kapil Shelke, Tork’s motorcycle has features like cloud connectivity, integrated GPS, and in-built navigation capabilities, thereby making it the first smart motorcycle.
- ProximiT provides proximity-based advertising in auto rickshaws in Pune and helps brands and consumers connect with each other. They use tablets installed in auto rickshaws that display feature rich content-static images, audio-video ads, and ads triggered by geo-location. ProximiT collects this data and, based on how different users interact with the tablet, provides insights to brands about which ads are the most effective. Co-founded by Abhay Bora, Yash Mutha, and Kamlesh Sancheti, ProximiT raised Rs 1 crore in early stage funding via crowd funding platform 1Crowd.
- Intouchapp, which provides contact management, has had over five lakh downloads and manages over 1.3 billion contacts. The app keeps users contacts auto-updated, backed up, and synced. It stores contacts in a cloud-based native database without additional memory on the phone.Founded by Sarang Lakare in December 2012, Intouchapp raised an undisclosed amount of seed funding from Blume Ventures in April 2016.
- Xpressbees, the logistics business spun out of Firstcry, secured Rs 85 crore in February from SAIF Partners, IDG Ventures India, NEA, Vertex Ventures and Valiant Capital. Reportedly, Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba Group was in talks with Xpressbees for potential investments to build a strong logistics infrastructure before launching its horizontal marketplace platform in the country. Xpressbees works with Paytm, which Alibaba has a 40 percent stake in, as third-party logistics and eKYC partner.
- PlanMyMedicalTrip provides affordable medical services for patients from abroad. Founded by Dr Rajeev Rane and son Anurav Rane, the medical tourism platform provides visas, hotel bookings, transfers and air ambulances for free, while charging a referral fee from hospitals. With over 1,000 treatment deals and more than 1,500 affiliations with both doctors and hospitals, it claims to have a turnover of Rs 6 crore for FY 2015-2016. They got its first round of funding of Rs 1.25 crore this year.
- Icustommadeit, an online marketplace for customised products, was founded by serial entrepreneur Raj Iyer in 2015. It brings together artisans and designers, bridging the gap between customers and manufacturers. There are over 25,000 items on the site, across 33 categories. They raised $4 million from Brand Capital, Siddhivinayak Skyscrapers, an undisclosed corporate giant and Dinesh R Challa in its Pre-series A round in February 2016.
- SpiderG claims to be India’s first e-invoicing technology provider for SMEs. The SaaS product developer startup provides real time insights to users about their business and transactions with buyers and suppliers. Its parent company, Gladiris technologies, was started in December 2013 selling open source Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to small and medium businesses. Founded by Ashwani Rathore, SpiderG serves 400 businesses and has received angel investment of $150,000.
In two words – no VCs. Pune has few angel investors or investment firms, unlike Bengaluru where they have made profited from new age technology. Pune is yet to move on from traditional manufacturing sector. Also, co-working spaces are fewer compared to Mumbai or Bengaluru. The Mesh and Entrepreneurial Facilitation Centres are the few which accommodate early-stage startups.
Despite affordable real estate and quality of life, Pune lacks opportunities for entrepreneurs as there are few startup events. “Ecosystem is like a jigsaw puzzle. You need a base of entrepreneurs, mentors, capital, incubators and young talent. Risk taking angels for early-stage startups are a necessity too,” Sanjay says. Blume Ventures has invested in five startups from Pune in different funds.
If angel investors wake up to the potential of Pune as a startup city, it is only a matter of time that it follows Bengaluru’s footsteps. Enterprise businesses and educational institutes provide the talent, and the quality and cost of living will play as Pune’s strengths.
A big shoutout to all our sponsors – Zendesk, Axis Bank, Sequoia Capital India Advisors , Digital Ocean, Microsoft, AWS, Akamai, Target, Verisign, Kerala Startup Mission, Brand Launch Centre, Tork and Blink.