India's 5 Most Valued Startups of 2021: Valuation, Funding, Industry

On World Entrepreneurs' Day 2021, let's take a look at India's most valued startups that have managed to shine despite an overall slump in the market.

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From logistics tech startup BlackBuck to e-pharmacy PharmEasy to fintech platform CRED, it is raining unicorns in India—with 25 unicorns in eight months. Home to the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem, the country is arguably turning into a successful unicorn ranch. 

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Led by the Zomato IPO this year, investments through IPOs so far in 2021 have reached $8.8 billion, surpassing the past three years' figures.

The number of companies valued at over $1 billion—nicknamed after the mythical creature representing the statistical rarity—based in India is estimated to be 100, with ten created in 2019 and 13 in 2020, according to the RBI August 2021 bulletin.

Speaking of the number of unicorns, India clinches the fourth spot, whereas the US ranks first, followed by China and the UK, according to the Hurun Global Unicorn List 2020.

In spite of an economic downturn, some have managed to turn the tide and make a mark on the market with their incredible billion-dollar business ideas and models. On World Entrepreneurs' Day 2021, let's take a look at the five most valuable Indian startups as of August 2021, according to the CB Insights report.

  1. BYJU's

Valuation: $16.5 billion

Founded: 2011

Entry into the unicorn club: 2018

Industry: Edtech

Headquartered in Bengaluru, BYJU's holds the highest-valued startup title, surpassing fintech company PayTM's $16-billion valuation. Founded by Byju Raveendran and Divya Gokulnath, BYJU's is on an acquisition spree and has spent about $2 billion over six months. It recently snagged WhiteHat Jr, a coding platform for children; offline test preparation company Aakash Institute; and online learning firm Topper.

The world's most valuable educational technology company, whose investors include Tencent Holdings, Lightspeed India Partners, and Sequoia Capital India, has recently raised $350 million and is the 14th most valuable startup in the world. Known for its K-12 learning app, the company says it caters to approximately 80 million students and is eyeing $1 billion in revenue over the next 12 to 15 months.

2. PayTM

Valuation: $16 billion

Founded: 2010

Entry into the unicorn club: 2015

Industry: Fintech

Another famous Indian startup to make it to the list is the country's leader in digital payments—PayTM, founded by DTU-graduate Vijay Shekhar Sharma with an initial investment of $2 million. Formally called One97 Communications Ltd., it is marching toward a $2.2 billion initial public offering (IPO)—the biggest ever in the country. The news emerged immediately after the success of India's first unicorn IPO by Zomato.

The digital payment startup, whose marquee investors include Intel Capital, Sapphire Ventures, and Alibaba Group, expects to increase its revenues to $1 billion in two to three years. The Noida-based fintech firm, which has nearly 330 million users, plans to roll out a slew of new products and services, including mutual funds, insurance, lending, and gold sales.

3. OYO Rooms

Valuation: $9 billion

Founded: 2013

Entry into the unicorn club: 2018

Industry: Travel

OYO Rooms, which took less than six years to achieve unicorn status, seamlessly checks into India's five most-valued startup club. Global tech giant Microsoft has recently invested $5 million in OYO Hotels & Homes. The IPO-bound hotel startup has aggressively expanded its presence to many international markets, including Europe, the US, and Southeast Asia. 

Founded by 27-year-old Ritesh Agarwal, the Gurgaon-based hospitality chain has SoftBank Group, Sequoia Capital India, and Lightspeed India Partners among its investors. According to its website, it has hosted more than 180 million guests of nearly 120 nationalities.

4. Ola Cabs

Valuation: $6.3 billion

Founded: 2010

Entry into the unicorn club: 2015

Industry: Auto and transportation

Ride-hailing giant Ola, which has just launched its highly-anticipated electric scooter, is also among the big winners of the lot. It ranks fourth on the list of the most valued startups in India. Founded by two IIT-Bombay students, Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, it has managed to raise $500 million from Temasek and Plum Wood Investment. 

Backed by Accel Partners, SoftBank Group, and Sequoia Capital, the Bengaluru-based startup is set to launch its first electric car by 2023. Next year, it plans to venture into the public market and has announced the expansion of its employee stock options pool (ESOP) to INR 3,000 crore, providing employees with an additional INR 400 crore in stocks. The company claims itself to be India's largest mobility platform, serving more than 250 cities across India, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

5. Swiggy

Valuation: $5.5 billion

Founded: 2014

Entry into the unicorn club: 2018

Industry: Supply chain, logistics, and delivery

Last but not least on the list is India's largest online food ordering and delivery platform Swiggy, popular for its aggressive strategy and discounting. One of India's fastest unicorns, it closed a $1.25-billion funding round just days after the Zomato IPO. In order to diversify, the Bangalore-based food delivery group has now started various alternative services, such as grocery delivery and courier service Genie. It targets a market of "close to 100m" Indians.

Founded by two BITS Pilani, Nandan Reddy and Sriharsha Majety; and one IIT Kharagpur alumnus, Rahul Jaimini, Swiggy has the support of investors, including Accel India, SAIF Partners, and Norwest Venture Partners. The company's website reports that it operates in about 520 Indian cities.

Ashmita Tamta

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Ashmita Tamta is a senior features writer at Entrepreneur magazine. She has written for The Statesman, South West Londoner, Indian Express, and others.