[Year in Review 2021] The top 10 Startup Bharat stories that made the most waves

As we bid adieu to 2021, YourStory brings to you stories of perseverance, of adapting to changing times, and persisting through what was termed an ‘unprecedented’ year. Here are 10 Startup Bharat stories that wrested attention this year.
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Over the last few years, India has seen the emergence of small-town startups that are looking to solve local issues. Be it challenges across lower internet bandwidth, lack of resources, or lack of vernacular platforms, Tier 2 and Tier 3 startups are building interesting business models and successfully attracting investor attention.

Automobile classifieds platform CarDekho in October 2021 raised $250 million, entering the unicorn club with a valuation of $1.2 billion – and becoming the first unicorn headquartered in Jaipur. Many other startups from Bharat are working overtime to follow in its footsteps, and YourStory has been dedicatedly shining the spotlight on them.

In January 2019, we launched the Startup Bharat series to showcase startups emerging from places beyond the metros, and on innovation happening in smaller cities and towns across India.

As we bid adieu to 2021, YourStory brings to you stories of perseverance, of adapting to changing times, and persisting through what was termed an ‘unprecedented’ year. Here are 10 startup bharat stories that made the most waves in this year:

Image Credits - YS Design Team

Jharkhand based Custkart

Founded in June 2020 by Kundan Mishra and his brother Abhishek Mishra, Custkart is a merchandise startup that sells T-shirts, caps, and hoodies to corporates and institutes, especially those located in small towns.

A T-shirt from Custkart costs between Rs 300 and Rs 500. In the last six months, Custkart has completed about one lakh orders for more than 25 engineering and medical colleges all over India, along with a handful of corporate entities. It has crossed one lakh merchandised t-shirt orders and has turned profitable, with a turnover of Rs 50 lakh.

Allahabad-based Examarly

Started right in the middle of the pandemic in 2020 by 26-year-old Nishant Shukla, along with co-founders Sushant Shukla, Ishan Malviya, and Thribhuvan HL, Examarly is a self-study platform that focuses on outcome-based learning for higher education and test preparation.

Through Examarly, the four founders along with 10 interns, handhold UPSC aspirants through the entire journey of exam preparation by making personalised plans that help them navigate the vast available content. This saves students 50 percent or more preparation time.

The founders have put in Rs 20 lakh as seed money so far from their own savings to bootstrap the company. Examarly is seeking to raise an angel round to scale its offering, and strengthen its positioning in the market.

Jaipur-based Omay Foods

An attempt to stop snacking on junk food but finding few healthy options led a Jaipur resident to set up a startup that uses a traditional oil-free roasting method to manufacture snacks.

Established in 2018 by Vijay Katta, Jaipur-based Omay Foods is a profitable direct-to-consumer (D2C) startup that sells packaged, ready-to-eat healthy snacks, prepared by roasting only in rock salt, a tradition in Rajasthan.

“Healthy snacking is a widespread category today,” Vijay says. “We roast the ingredients in rock salt, instead of frying or baking in oil or a liquid substance. Salt is heated to 300ºC, dry grains are dropped into it, and cooked in a swift action. It is an unpopular technique in the mass packaged foods industry and that’s where we find our USP.”

Coimbatore-based Juicy Chemistry

Founded by husband-wife duo Pritesh Asher and Megha Asher, Juicy Chemistry is a D2C beauty brand known for its organic ingredients and products. The D2C brand, which focuses on organic ingredients and products, has partnered with small-scale certified farmers across 20 countries and sells its products online. At present, the company services over 20,000 pincodes in India and exports to 20 countries.

The Coimbatore-based company recently raised $6.3 million in Series A funding led by Belgium-based firm Verlinvest and is preparing to enter the Rs 100 crore club in the next 16-18 months.

Ahmedabad-based Veirdo

Veirdo was founded by techies Dhaval Ahir, Amardeep Jadeja, and Piyush Ganatra in 2016, to offer trendy and affordable fashion to 16-to-45 year-old men.

The fully homegrown fashion brand sources raw materials, dyes, designs, and prints, manufactures, and distributes all its apparel. By 2019, the bootstrapped startup expanded to launch a womenswear brand, Juneberry, to make the most of the rise in female fashion shoppers in India. This year, following pandemic-led growth, Veirdo is planning to get into the kidswear segment.

Punjab-based Jai Bharat

Hailing from an agrarian family in Sonipat, Haryana, Mohit Dahiya wasn’t new to the challenges faced by the farming community. Having faced labour shortage during paddy transplanting season, he could personally relate to farmers’ woes. These issues spurred Mohit to research ways to alleviate problems for the sector.

In a few months’ time, Mohit came up with the idea to innovate an automatic machine that can substitute the work of 8-10 farmers on the field. This led to the founding of Jai Bharat Agritech in Punjab in October 2020, but the team had started the prototyping and research back in 2017.

Once Mohit had the idea in place, he roped in his classmate Saawan Kaur as a co-founder, and his brother, Amit Kumar Dahiya, to help in finance, registration and legal work. The team is still expanding.

Bhubaneswar-based EzeRx

It’s time to breathe a sigh of relief for the large majority of us who dread hospital visits that mean needles and drawing blood. For there’s an alternative. Thanks to Bhubaneswar-based startup Ezerx, and its unique Made in India, non-invasive device that allows you to get your blood tests done at an affordable price and in record time - and all without having to draw a single drop of blood.

Founded in 2018 by Partha Pratim Das, along with Chaitali Roy and Sudip Roy Chowdhury, Ezerx has developed EzeCheck, a non-invasive, portable device that checks your blood parameters within 10 to 20 seconds at just less than Rs 35 - without having to draw a single drop of blood.

Jaipur-based OLE Rooms

An inability to find accommodation as an engineering aspirant in Kota, coupled with a medical emergency, led 18-year-old Devendra Sharma to start an online marketplace for renting flats, paying guest houses, and hostels for as low as Rs 199 a day.

Started in 2018, Jaipur-based startup Ole Rooms lets people list, discover, and book accommodations on an individual or shared basis for a desired period — from a day to more than a year — at low rates without paying brokerage.

Ahmedabad-based Rise Hydroponics

Ahmedabad-based agritech startup Rise Hydroponics, which was founded in April 2020 by Tusshar Aggarwal, Meet Patel, and Vivek Shukla, provides end-to-end soilless farming solutions and is involved in developing both outdoor and indoor hydroponics farm projects.

The co-founders explain that one of the major benefits of hydroponics farming is that the crops are grown under controlled conditions and temperatures, and “can be grown all year round”.

“Our main objective with Rise Hydroponics is to empower farmers and make agriculture a profitable asset. We are also looking to reduce and stop the import of exotic crops, and ensure availability of healthy nutritious crops to meet the rising demand for food with increasing population,” Vivek says.

Coimbatore-based Machenn Innovations

Founded in 2020, Coimbatore-based startup Machenn Innovations offers digital manufacturing training to engineering students.

Incubated at FIED, IIM Kashipur, Machenn claims to be working with over 15 colleges across India, including Dayananda Sagar College of Engineering (Bengaluru), Vidya Academy of Science and Technology (Thrissur), Kalpataru Institute Of Technology (Tiptur), Canara Engineering College (Mangalore), and Sri Shakthi Institute of Engineering and Technology (Coimbatore) among others.

Apart from this, Machenn Innovations also has offline 3D printing labs across India where students can get on-site training for digital manufacturing.

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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