Why you have to pay attention to the Indian startup scene

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Back in August during Y Combinator’s two-day demo extravaganza, TechCrunch noted a number of startups from India that stood out from the batch. Names like Bikayi (e-commerce tools), Decentro (consumer banking APIs), Farmako Healthcare (digital health records) and MedPiper Technologies (helping hire health professionals) joined our list of favorites from the batch.

Seeing so many India-focused startups in the mix wasn’t a fluke. Data shows that India’s venture capital scene has grown sharply in recent years. 2019 was the country’s biggest ever in terms of venture dollars invested, with Bain counting $10 billion during the year.

In 2020, the third quarter brought the country’s venture capital scene back to form. After a somewhat average start to the year, Indian startups saw their venture capital investment fall to just $1.5 billion in Q2, the lowest quarterly tally since 2016. But data via KPMG and PitchBook make it plain that Q3 was a rebound, with $3.6 billion invested into Indian startups during the three-month period.

That figure was not a historical record, mind; the Q3 total looks to be only the fourth-biggest VC quarter in India’s startup history since at least 2013 and, perhaps, ever. But it was a good bounce-back during a crippling pandemic all the same. The country’s VC deal count also rebounded a bit in the third quarter, with some of that money landing in big chunks, including a $500 million investment into Byju’s this September.

Smaller startups are also seeing strong results. Bikayi is one such startup. TechCrunch caught up with the company via email, digging into its post-Demo Day results. Its monthly recurring revenue (MRR) grew 60% in August from its July results, it said. And in late August the company told TechCrunch that it was on track to reach $1 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) by the end of the year.

Bikayi said more recently that it recorded 100% growth in the number of merchants it supports, and 100% revenue growth in September. So the WhatsApp-focused Shopify-for-India is racing ahead. October results, Bikayi CEO Sonakshi Nathani added, are looking “promising” as well.

To get a better handle on the Indian startup market more broadly, The Exchange got ahold of Accel investors Arun Mathew (based in the United States), and Prayank Swaroop (based in India), for a bit of digging.

Historically, falling bandwidth and smartphone costs along with improved Internet reliability helped lay the foundation for the recent Indian startup wave, according to Swaroop. Mathew added that some high-profile successes like Flipkart made startups a more attractive option, with the ecommerce company’s success helping to “change the tenor” of the conversation around founding tech firms in recent years.

It also helps, Swaroop added, that seasoned folks from existing Indian tech companies are branching out and starting companies of their own, recycling knowledge into new, smaller companies. This is a key method by which Silicon Valley has managed to create an outsized number of hits over time; a concentration of operators who have built big startups are key grist in the unicorn mill. And there’s more money being raised to help power new Indian tech companies.

All told, 2019 was a huge year for the Indian startup market in venture capital terms, and 2020’s recovery is underway. Let’s see what gets built.

Market Notes

The Exchange spent a lot of this week digging into venture capital data and trends, something that we love to do. If you need to catch up, here’s our look at the U.S. venture capital scene in Q3, and here are our notes on the more global picture. And we touched on India above. What more could there be?

Well, some data on healthcare-focused companies is just what we need. Per a new report from CB Insights, there are 41 healthcare-focused unicorns today. More importantly, startups focused on health-related matters (telemedicine, mental health, AI, etc.) just had a record quarter. Even for a pandemic, $21.8 billion went into the space across 1,539 global rounds in the third quarter. That’s far more activity than I would have guessed.

And with that, we’re cutting Market Notes short this week for some important TechCrunch news:

Hey y’all. It’s Megan Rose Dickey busting into Alex’s newsletter for a couple of quick news items. First, I officially launched my newsletter, Human Capital! It covers labor and diversity and inclusion in tech. Also, I relaunched the Mixtape podcast with my colleague Henry Pickavet. You can check out our first episode of Season 3 about California’s gig worker ballot measure Prop 22 here.

Megan is amazing and you should check out her pod and newsletter.

Various and Sundry

As always, there was more good stuff to share here than I can possibly fit, so let’s get right into the data, takes, links and other delicacies.

Wrapping, a survey from Salesforce shows that enterprise cloud CEOs are reporting better-than-anticipated revenue growth and lower-than-anticipated churn, when compared to their March estimates. That is probably why earnings haven’t been a disaster and so many unicorns were able to go public in Q3.

That and valuations in the public sphere are higher than what private investors are dishing up, inverting the market’s last few years.

See you Monday,


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