India has emerged as a hotbed for tech unicorns due to the increased adoption of digital services in the country. During Covid-19 lockdowns, consumers were forced to stay at home to reduce the spread of infection, leading to a shift to online services. This gave a significant boost to many tech, media, and telecom (TMT) companies, including many new start-ups.
According to GlobalData, as of December 2021, there were 51 tech unicorns headquartered in India, with a collective value of $141 billion. Thanks to this, India has emerged as the third-largest technology unicorn ecosystem in the world, behind only the US and China.
Unicorn momentum got stronger in the first quarter of 2022
As the country continues to see increasing smartphone penetration (with cheaper mobile internet) start-ups operating in internet-based themes continued to benefit. Indians are increasingly adopting digital services and investors are pouring money into tech start-ups. This resulted in a strong quarter for the tech unicorns ecosystem. In the first quarter of 2022, India added 13 new tech unicorns, up sharply from Q1 2021, which only recorded two new unicorns.
Ecommerce is the leading theme among newly formed unicorns in India
According to GlobalData, ecommerce and fintech were the top two themes driving unicorns in 2021. These trends continued in 2022 and the country saw four new ecommerce unicorns and two new fintech unicorns in Q1 2022. The ecommerce unicorns are collectively worth $5.6 billion and fintech companies are valued at $2.3 billion. In addition, there were two new cloud unicorns with a combined valuation of $2 billion, as well as one new gaming and blockchain unicorn.
Polygon and Games 24×7 are the biggest unicorns of 2022
Polygon, an Ethereum solution provider, was the biggest unicorn formed in Q1 2022. It is valued at $10 billion, with total funding of $450 million to date. Investors in the latest funding round included Tiger Global Management, Sequoia Capital India, and Softbank.
Game24x7 was the next big unicorn entry in Q1 2022. This gaming unicorn is valued at $2.5 billion, with total funding of $75 million from Tiger Global, Malabar Investments, and the Raine Group.
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DealShare is the third-most valuable Indian unicorn in Q1 2022. The ecommerce unicorn has total funding of $165 million from investors such as Tiger Global Management and Alpha Wave Global and is valued at $1.7 billion.
ElasticRun, which offers an ecommerce distribution platform, is the fourth-most valuable Indian unicorn formed in Q1 2022. SoftBank Vision Fund 2 invested $300 million in the company and valued it at $1.5 billion.
The next big new Indian unicorns were CredAvenue and Xpressbees. CredAvenue is a fintech start-up that has achieved a valuation of $1.3 billion with total funding of $137 million on 7 March, 2022. Xpressbees is a logistics firm valued at $1.2 billion, with total funding of $300 million raised on 9 February, 2022.
The future unicorn pipeline in India looks strong
This could be a record-breaking year for Indian unicorns if the birth of tech unicorns in India continues to grow at the current pace. We expect to see at least 20 companies turning into unicorns.
The notable candidates include Dunzo (on-demand logistics), Ecom Express (end-to-end logistics), Fresh to Home (online retail for seafood and meat), Navi Technologies (digital lending), Practo (Mobile health), Classplus (edtech), and Uable (edtech).