From Tiger Shroff to Athiya Shetty: Indian celebrities who are startup investors

From Tiger Shroff investing in an English learning venture to Athiya Shetty backing a lifestyle startup, YourStory looks at some of the recent investments made by Bollywood celebrities.
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Being the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, India has more than 100 unicorns. While venture capitalists, angel investors, businessmen, and high net worth individuals (HNIs) have been funding emerging startups, Bollywood celebrities have bet on the startup ecosystem.

 

Apart from acting, many smart celebrities from the Indian entertainment industry have turned into startup investors, including Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Shilpa Shetty, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Ayushmann Khurrana, Shahid kapoor and Jacqueline Fernandez among others.

The latest to join the club is Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan who has invested an undisclosed amount in cloud kitchen firm Curefoods and also inked a "long-term association" which makes him the brand ambassador of EatFit, the flagship brand under Curefoods.

YourStory looks at some of the recent star power investments:

 Athiya Shetty|Stage3

This March, Bollywood actor Athiya Shetty invested an undisclosed amount in New Delhi-based Stage3, a community-powered social commerce platform for fashion and lifestyle. Athiya will take on the role of Stage3’s creative director.   

 

Launched in 2015 by Sabena Puri, Stage3 is a full-stack social commerce marketplace for fashion where content, social interactions, and commerce converge. It delivers to its digitally native customers a curated, discovery-led, hyper-personalized shopping experience, interacting directly with India’s creator economy of more than 5 million+ influencers and content creators. 

 The startup engaged a social following of more than 500,000 and a strong fashion ecosystem of 2000+ celebrities, stylists, designers and influencers who will drive the future of ecommerce. 

The startup also recently raised Rs 20 crore from notable investors such as Blume Ventures, Inflection Point Ventures, Nueva Ventures, Eragon Ventures, Let’s Venture, Stanford Angels, Ananth Narayanan (Founder, Mensa Brands), Dinesh Aggarwal (CEO, India Mart) and Sashwat Nakrani (Co-Founder, Bharat Pe).

 Samantha Ruth Prabhu|SustainKart

In March 2022, Indian actress Samantha Ruth Prabhu, who made her debut in Bollywood with Family Man-2, invested in SustainKart, an ecommerce marketplace for sustainable products. Her investment is a part of SustainKart’s seed round. The startup also announced the launch of its first retail franchise model.

SustainKart will use the seed round fund towards marketing for customer acquisition and enable offline retail stores for a unique in-store customer experience.

Founded in 2021 by Kanthi Dutt and Shilpa Reddy, Hyderabad-based Clean and green products aggregator, SustainKart is a brand that offers an array of sustainable and eco-friendly products ranging from fashion to decor, beauty and wellness, furnishings to gifting, nutrition and snacks, kids care, pet care, etc.

It is a platform that  currently  hosts  over 1000 brands and 85000 SKUs, aiming to revamp households with conscious products. 

The startup’s mission is to change the spending pattern of Indians for their lifestyle commodities. It targets becoming a unicorn by 2023.

SustainKart claims that it has marked several milestones since its launch in January 2021. This includes raising a pre-Seed round, launching a private label,  and  acquiring  two  D2C  brands.

Varun Dhawan|Curefoods

In April 2022, Bollywood actor Varun Dhawan made an investment in Bengaluru-based cloud kitchens operator Curefoods. The startup inked a long-term association with him, making him the brand ambassador for EatFit, a brand under Curefoods.

Dhawan’s investment in Curefoods coincides with the launch of its multi-brand D2C (direct-to-consumer) food ordering platform - Eatfit. The platform is aimed at providing direct access to popular brands under Curefoods. It will also play a role in inculcating sustainable food ordering habits by promoting its food subscription options, especially for its healthy food brands, which customers can consume multiple times a month.

In the coming years, audiences will witness Varun appear in Curefoods’ marketing endeavours to promote healthy eating and online ordering via eatfit.in.

In 2021, the actor also invested an undisclosed amount in the D2C nutraceutical brand Fast&Up.

Started in 2020 by Ankit Nagori, Curefoods is housing brands like EatFit, Sharief Bhai, Frozen Bottle, Aligarh House Biryani, CakeZone, and Great Indian Khichdi. 

It has over 150 kitchens that cater to over 10 cuisines, across 15 cities in India. The startup claims that it is the second-largest cloud kitchen player in India in terms of footprint with the largest manufacturing capability in the fresh food space.

Curefoods has most recently announced the acquisitions of Frozen Bottle and south India franchise rights of Sbarro. Leveraging its multi-brand multi-kitchen model, Curefoods is on an ambitious path to significantly scale its footprint and serve a multitude of food options to meet the growing needs of a diverse consumer base. 

In January 2022, it raised $62 million in funding from the likes of Iron Pillar, Chiratae Ventures, Sixteenth Street Capital, Accel Partners, and Binny Bansal. 

Sara Ali Khan|The Souled Store

In March 2022, Indian Actor Sara Ali Khan joined pop-culture brand, The Souled Store, as an equity partner.

Founded in 2013 by three youngsters Vedang Patel, Rohin Samtaney and Aditya Sharma, Mumbai-based The Souled Store is an online marketplace for pop culture merchandise. Its products range from t-shirts, boxers, backpacks, and mobile covers, to socks, pins, badges, and a whole lot more.

The startup claims to be India’s largest fan merchandise destination with licenses including Disney, Warner Bros, WWE, IPL teams, EPL Teams, and Viacom18.

For the first five years, the startup was bootstrapped and received seed funding from RP-SG Ventures in November 2018.

Since then, the company has grown over 4X by focusing on data, customer insights, and feedback, and keeping customer satisfaction on top of everything else.

In August 2021, it raised Rs 75 crore in Series B funding led by Elevation Capital.

Over the last six months, the brand has leveraged the reach of OTT stars Aisha Ahmed, Mithila Palkar, Barkha Singh, and Ahsaas Channa to highlight various categories across women's wear. This has given it better visibility with OTT customers and is also the brand’s major step into influencer marketing. It has also worked with 100+ influencers from the beauty, fashion, and travel space to amplify its womenswear range across social media.

The future will see The Souled Store opening its first-ever retail and experience space in Bengaluru, spanning 5,000 sq ft.

Suniel Shetty|Aquatein

In February 2022, Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty invested an undisclosed amount in fitness startup Aquatein. He also became the brand ambassador of Aquatein.

Launched in 2019 by Ananta Prabhala and Mitisha Mehta, Mumbai-based Aquatein is a keto-friendly, gluten-free, lactose-free and 100 percent vegetarian drink which is basically made of water with added protein.

In 2021, the actor showed interest in the NFT space and joined an NFT marketplace on the polygon network Colexion. He joined Colexion as an investor and advisor.

The food and beverage startup aims to create evolutionary products to make nutrition intake simple, efficient and tasty for daily use.

Its products are available online, as well as on Amazon, HealthXP, Netmeds, and a fast-growing list of retail outlets across India.

According to the startup, the startup was carefully formulated and tested in a European lab led by a team of food technologists. 

Starting from Rs 2,400 per month, the startup provides monthly protein supply delivered weekly at your doorstep.

Tiger Shroff|Freadom

In January 2022, Tiger Shroff, who is famous for his action films, invested an undisclosed amount in the English learning startup Freadom. 

Earlier in 2016, Tiger Shroff launched his clothing line Prowl that sells clothes on its website and online marketplace Amazon.

Founded in 2016 by Kavish Gadia and Nikhil Saraf, Gurugram-based Freadom equips children to learn to read in English in any country where it is an aspirational second language, via its state-of-the-art recommendation engine; built-in collaboration with Stanford University to drive English language learning.

Freadom is an initiative of Stones2milestones Edu Services Pvt Ltd which was founded in the year 2008. 

The startup provides an app for both Android and iOS users to start their learning journey.

It caters to children in the age group of three to 12 years and has content including stories, quizzes, live classes, storytelling sessions, news, activities, and speech games. The app keeps assessing the level of the child as they use the app, and guides them towards improvement, all of which can be tracked. 

Since its inception, Freadom has raised a total of $6 million, of which $5 million has come in post-pandemic. Its leading investors are Unreasonable Capital and Capital A, over various rounds and stages.

The startup aims to use the funds in product development and distribution, and also to further strengthen the startup’s vertical presence.

Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti

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