A Look Into India’s Recent Spike in Unicorns

Written by Sakshi Agarwal (Weloquent) 


“Unicorn” is a term used to describe a privately held company that has reached a valuation of over $1 billion. In the world of fast-growing startups, Unicorns are no longer the animals of myths and lore, but a reality that is created by legends and their tales of success.

India has a thriving ecosystem of start-ups that boast of at least 60 unicorns till date. In the year 2021 alone, 24 Indian startups made it to the list, with their founders’ visions becoming hallmarks of innovation, progress, and achievement. Here are 5 of the biggest startups to turn unicorn in the year 2021:-


1. BrowserStack: Saas - Software Testing company

A software testing platform that allows developers to test their software across a range of browsers and devices, the company’s mission is to “empower developers to build amazing experiences.”


Founded by Ritesh Arora and Nakul Aggarwal, in 2011, the Bombay based company now has offices in New York, San Francisco, and Dublin. Started in Mumbai, the founders met while they were studying at IIT Bombay and co-founded three other ventures before embarking on this one.
Quarkrank, one of the first AI powered sentient engines, was their first venture. Then came QuarkBase, a website, and finally they built DownCase —a consulting company for global clients. It was during the inception of the website for DownCase that they met with roadblocks and frustrations due to their inability to test their site across multiple devices and browsers. This frustration led to the creation of BrowserStack. 


While it remained bootstrapped for the first seven years, the company still managed to raise around $20 million. Today, they have a clientele that includes Tesco, Shell, Microsoft, Twitter, and over 50,000 other customers. In the series B of funding, backed by BOND —a US-based investment firm — along with Accel and Insight Partners, they raised $200 million, with a valuation of $4 billion, thus becoming a unicorn. 


2. Digit Insurance: Insurtech company

Digit Insurance is a privately owned company that focuses on 100% cloud-based technology to simplify the insurance process for its customers. They specialize in the self-inspections required for auto-insurance claims. 


Started in 2017, the Bangalore-based company is the first Insurtech startup to be added to this coveted list. Kamesh Goyal, the founder, started this company with the vision to make insurance processes so simple that “even a 15-year-old can comprehend it.'' 

Initially funded by the cricketer, Virat Kohli, the company is now primarily backed by the Fairfax group — which is owned by Canadian Prem Watsa — and is now valued at $1.9 billion. 


Goyal started out with a BA LLB, and then an MBA from Delhi University. His professional journey began as a manager at KPMG India, leading him to become the Head of Asset Management and Grant Planning and Controlling at Allianz. He had gathered over 30 years of professional and industry experience before jumping into the startup pool, showing that age is no barrier to achieving our goals.


3. PharmEasy: Health Tech company

“Only technology can solve India’s healthcare challenges, and our aim is to make health services accessible and affordable.” - Dharmil Sheth. 

Becoming the first E-pharmacy to join the esteemed cohort of unicorns for this year, PharmEasy was cofounded by Dharmil Sheth and Dhaval Shah with the vision of creating more accessible healthcare for Indians. From fixing a doctor’s appointment to having medicines delivered at the doorstep, all the steps of medical care have been digitized through this platform. The Mumbai-based company has expanded its reach to deliver its services to around 98% of pin codes all over the country since its inception in 2014. 


The company faced many challenges with its consumer base as people were hesitant to post their prescriptions to an online database. Tracking deliveries was also a problem for the new venture. However, through skillful management of their issues and building trust amongst their customers, their growing clientele and customer retention numbers are proof that every problem has a solution. 


Raising $350 million from investors such as Prosus Ventures and TPG Growth, the company is valued at $1.5 billion, ensuring its place in the unicorn club. 


4. upGrad:  Edtech company

upGrad was cofounded in 2015 by Mayank Kumar, Ronnie Screwvala, Ravijot Chugh, and Phalgun Kompalli. The idea behind the founding of the company was to bridge the gap between formal education and upskilling by providing certified courses of subject matter pursued by high school students — a need that had not been addressed by the wide variety of MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) offered at that time. upGrad also employed one of its kind models for pricing whereby they charge 50% of the fees only if their customers have got placements, showing that the price of confidence in oneself will always deliver the sweetest of fruits. 


"We, at upGrad, had always believed in the potential of online education being able to transform careers.”- Ronnie Screwvala. 

It is the third Indian Edtech startup to turn Unicorn following BYJU’S and Unacademy. The Bangalore-based company is valued at $1.2 billion, with a $185 million funding from global investors such as Singapore’s Temasek, World Bank’s International Financial Corporation, and IIFL. 


5. Share Chat: Social Media Network

Share Chat is India’s first social media platform to make it as unicorn. It was co-founded by Ankush Sachdeva, Farid Ahsan, and Bhanu Pratap Singh in 2015. After graduating from IIT Kharagpur and fuelled with the passion to create a product that was homegrown and catered to the consumer demands for more accessible social media, the trio built ShareChat after 13 attempts at creating such a product. 


Their platform is an indigenous social media platform that operates in 15 Indian languages including Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, Malayalam, and Tamil. Today it boasts of over 280 million users. 

It has been created with the vision to allow users to “chill without fear” — the fear of being judged on a platform like Instagram that uses English as its language. It also has a short video platform called Moj, which gained popularity after the ban of TikTok in India. Together, Share Chat and Moj raised $502 million in funding that was led by Lightspeed Ventures and Tiger Global and was valued at $2.1 billion. Theirs is a journey of conviction and perseverance, and a reminder to chase our dreams with an open mind and a brave heart.