The billion-dollar club of 2018: Meet the new Indian startup unicorns on the block

The billion-dollar club of 2018: Meet the new Indian startup unicorns on the block

Monday August 13, 2018,

5 min Read

Here is a look at the desi unicorns that made the headlines this year.

The year 2018 seems to belong to the unicorns. The streak started with Zomato in February, when the Gurugram-based food delivery startup raised $200 million from Ant Financial Group.

The funding was just a starter to a slew of investments, which catapulted multiple other Indian startups into the unicorn club. This comes after a particularly dry spell in terms of getting new unicorns in India.

While investors rushed to invest in the already strong category players, according to YourStory Research, the overall venture funding in H1 2018 stood at $6.1 billion, a 10.5 percent drop versus $6.8 billion in H1 2017. This is in spite of the number of deals marginally increasing to 465 from the 449 deals penned in H1 of 2017.

In comparison, the first six months of last year went in the already existing unicorns, including Flipkart, Ola and Paytm, strengthening their play by raising massive rounds from the likes of Tencent, Microsoft, SoftBank and Alibaba.

Having said that, here is a look at the Indian startups that raised funding this year, at a valuation of more than a billion.


Headquarters: Gurugram

Sector: Foodtech

Last funding: $200 million from Ant Financial in February this year

Estimated valuation: $1.1 billion

Zomato, India’s food delivery and restaurant discovery behemoth, raised $200 million in the first week of February from Ant Small and Micro Financial Services. Media reports suggested that the funding included $50 million in secondary share sales from shareholder Info Edge (India) Ltd. In a filing with the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), the company stated that this dilution took Info Edge’s total stake in the company to about 30.91 percent after the fundraise.

Deepinder-Goyal zomato featured image
Deepinder Goyal, Founder and CEO, Zomato


Headquarters: Bengaluru

Sector: Edtech

Last funding round: Undisclosed   

In March, The Economic Times reported that Byju’s had silently entered the unicorn club, crossing $1 billion in estimated worth. Entites that infused funds into the company included China’s Tencent and BCCL (Bennett Coleman and Co Ltd). With this fundraise, Byju’s became the first Indian edtech company to enter the unicorn club.

Media reports now suggest that the company is gearing up for another massive fundraise, at a valuation of $1.8 - $2 billion from new investors as well as existing investor Tencent Holdings Ltd.

Byju Raveendran, Founder & CEO, Byju’s.

Paytm Mall

Headquarters: Noida

Sector: Ecommerce

Last funding: Rs 2,900 crore (around $450 million) in April 2018 from SoftBank and Alibaba

Estimated valuation: $1.6 billion - $2 billion

After much speculation in the market, online retailer Paytm Mall, in the first week of April, announced that it had raised around Rs 2,900 crore from the SoftBank Group Corp., and existing investor Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The funding was estimated to come in four tranches. Paytm Mall had said the funds were raised to empower offline merchants with superior technology as well as to build better logistics capabilities.

Paytm Mall Amit Sinha
Amit Sinha, Chief Operating Officer of Paytm Mall


Headquarters: Bengaluru

Sector: Foodtech

Last funding: $210 million from Naspers and billionaire Yuri Milner’s DST Global in June 2018

Estimated valuation: $1.3 billion

Food delivery startup Swiggy raised $210 million in a funding round led by Naspers and DST Global in June. Meituan-Dianping and new investor Coatue Management also invested in this round. This made Swiggy not just the second Indian foodtech startup to earn the unicorn status, but also the fastest Indian startup to reach a billion-dollar valuation. The company achieved this milestone over a period of just four years. Swiggy is considered to have raised a total of $465 million since its inception.

Founders of Swiggy: (L-R) - Nandan Reddy, Rahul Jaimini and Sriharsha Majety


Headquarters: Gurugram

Sector: Fintech

Last funding: $200 million in equity financing led by SoftBank

In June, PolicyBazaar’s parent company, ETechAces Marketing & Consulting Pvt Ltd, became a unicorn when parent company ETechAces Marketing & Consulting Pvt Ltd raised $200 million. Founder Yashish Dahiya has said that a majority of the investments will be used to build their new telemedicine business, DocPrime, which will also act as a cross-selling platform to leverage PolicyBazaar and PaisaBazaar’s (the group’s lending arm) products.

Insurance will be cross-leveraged as a subscription to cover OPD costs in hospitals while helping connect individuals to doctors.

Girish Mathrubootham, founder of Freshworks


Headquarters: Chennai

Sector: SaaS

Last funding round: $100 million in August 2018 investment led by Sequoia Capital, and Accel Partners, and CapitalG

Estimated valuation:  $1.5 billion

Earlier this month, Chennai-based Freshworks announced that it had raised $100 million from Sequoia Capital, Accel Partners, and CapitalG. This takes the total fundraise of the company to $250 million. The cash infusion will be used to further expand Freshworks’ worldwide expansion and grow its integrated Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.

In June, Freshworks had announced that it had crossed $100 million in annual recurring revenue, led by its flagship support products Freshdesk (customer support software), Freshservice (IT service management software) and Freshsales (CRM software).

Indian hotel aggregator OYO is also speculated to have reached a billion-dollar valuation earlier this year before it kick-started its operations in China. As per the last funding round, OYO raised a $250 million round of funding, which was led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.