The billion-dollar club: 7 Indian startups that became unicorns in 2020

Of these, Nykaa, Unacademy, Zerodha, Razorpay, and Postman became unicorns despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Every entrepreneur wants to see his/her startup enter the prestigious billion-dollar unicorn club one day. However, becoming a ‘unicorn’ amidst the pandemic is difficult to realise for many startups, owing to the many setbacks, especially business slowdown. 

According to a recent TiE Delhi-NCR report, President Rajan Anandan said the investor sentiment in the third-largest startup ecosystem is seeing a rapid recovery since September, with the Indian unicorn club expected to steadily expand through 2020 and 2021. India is on a path to have 100 unicorns by 2025, he added. 

Startups, including Nykaa, Unacademy, Zerodha, Razorpay, and Postman attained the unicorn status amidst the pandemic. Here are the seven Indian startups that entered the billion-dollar club in 2020. 

Pine Labs

B.Amrish Rau, Chief Executive Officer, Pine Labs

In January 2020, Pine Labs became the first unicorn of 2020, after raising an undisclosed amount from New York-based financial services major Mastercard

While the transaction details were not disclosed, the funding round was pegged at $100-$150 million (Rs 713-1,069 crore), according to sources. With this, the Sequoia Capital-backed Pine Labs is now valued at $1.5-1.6 billion.

Founded in 1998 by Lokvir Kapoor, Rajul Garg, and Tarun Upaday, Noida-based startup provides a merchant platform and makes software for point of sale (PoS) machines. Pine Labs processes payments of $30 billion per year and serves close to 140,000 merchants across 450,000 network points.

FirstCry

FirstCry Co-founder Supam Maheshwari

Pune-based baby products marketplace FirstCry raised $296 million (Rs 2,120 crore) in Series E funding from Japan-based Softbank’s Vision Fund in February of this year. 

According to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs filings, the investment is the first tranche of the total $400 million funding, which has been committed by SoftBank. The additional Rs 703 crore ($100 million) has been reserved by SoftBank to be invested on the second anniversary of the transaction in January 2021.

With this transaction, Firstcry entered the famed unicorn club at a valuation of $1.2 billion. 

Founded in 2010 by Supam Maheshwari and Amitava Saha, FirstCry has been an undisputed leader in the omnichannel baby and mother care products segment. The startup claims to offer two lakh baby and kid’s products across 2,000 brands and has expanded its user base to over four million. It has a retail footprint of over 300 stores spread across 125 cities.

Nykaa

Falguni Nayar, Founder & CEO, Nykaa with Nihir Parikh, Chief Business Officer (2nd row, 3rd from L-R)

Mumbai-based online beauty-turned-omnichannel lifestyle retailer Nykaa in May raised Rs 66.64 crore from its existing investor Steadview Capital. Reportedly, with this round of investment, Nykaa is valued at $1.2 billion, thus, entering the startup unicorn club.

Since its launch in 2012 by Falguni Nayar (former Managing Director at Kotak Mahindra Capital), Nykaa has been instrumental in shaping the beauty and lifestyle industry in India through its omnichannel reach and curated product offering.

Following the implementation of the lockdown towards the end of March, Nykaa started delivering essentials to over 14,000 pin-codes across the country.

Postman

Postman Founder & CEO Abhinav Asthana

Bengaluru and San Francisco-based SaaS startup Postman has the distinction of being the fastest SaaS startup to reach the unicorn status. In June 2020, the six-year-old startup secured a Series C funding of $150 million at a valuation of $2 billion.

Founded in 2014 by Abhijit Kane, Abhinav Asthana, and Ankit Sobti, Postman provides a platform that helps software developers accelerate the development process through collaboration with various stakeholders.

The platform claims to be used by over 11 million developers across the world, and more than 500,000 companies globally, including the likes of Microsoft and Twitter. According to the startup, 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the platform.

Zerodha

Zerodha Co-founders Nikhil and Nithin Kamath with the core team

The decade-old bootstrapped startup Zerodhaentered the unicorn club in June this year, with a self-assessed valuation of about $1 billion, based on the ESOP buyback exercise the startup undertook. It valued each share at more than four times the book value of Rs 700 per share.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bengaluru startup recorded rapid growth, doubling its average monthly user additions from pre-COVID-19 levels to around 200,000 users per month since March 2020. The startup achieved this with the help of first-time investors, who sought to take advantage of the sharp declines in stock markets due to the ongoing crisis.

Founded in 2010 by Nithin Kamath and Nikhil Kamath, Zerodha has recorded a net profit of Rs 350 crore on revenue of Rs 850 crore in FY19. It has also witnessed its total client base increase by nearly 40X to 2.8 million over the past five years.

Unacademy

Unacademy Founders

In September this year, riding on the surge of online learning, edtech startup Unacademy entered the billion-dollar club. The Bengaluru-based edtech startup raised a $150 million funding round led by SoftBank, valuing the startup at $1.45 billion.

Founded in 2015 by Gaurav Munjal, Roman Saini, and Hemesh Singh, Unacademy was initially launched as a YouTube channel. 

At present, with a network of over 18,000 teachers and subscribers of about 350,000, the Bengaluru-based edtech platform said it plans to utilise the funds to launch new products and to hire fresh talent.

Razorpay

Harshil and Shashank, founders of Razorpay

The latest entrant to the club is Razorpay, which attained the unicorn status in October of 2020. Fintech startup Razorpay raised $100 million in Series D funding co-led by GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, and Sequoia Capital India. With this round, the Bengaluru-based payment startup entered the unicorn club amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The new funding provided Razorpay with $206.5 million in investments since its inception in 2014, which includes its recent fundraise of $75 million in Series C in 2019.

In a bid to make the payment process simple for startups and SMEs, co-founders Harshil Mathur and Shashank Kumar launched the startup in 2014. At present, Razorpay powers payments for over five million businesses, including the likes of Airtel, BookMyShow, Facebook, Ola, Zomato, Swiggy, CRED, and ICICI Prudential, among others. In fact, it is all set to double this to 10 million by the end of this year. 

(With inputs from Tenzin Pema, Thimmaya Poojary, Sindhu Kashaap, Debolina Biswas, and Apurva P)

Edited by Suman Singh

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