Indian technology startups strike pot of gold in 2015

Local startups raised more than $7 billion in 789 new deals during the year.
Written by V L Srinivasan, Contributor

For Indian technology startups, 2015 has proved to be a remarkable year as they raised more than $7 billion in private funding in 789 new deals compared with $5.4 billion in 2014.

According to a report from startup tracker Tracxn, as many as 341 deals totaling $3.17 billion were finalised between January and June in 2015 while 448 deals were concluded for an amount of $4.05 billion from July 1 to December 15.

The most significant funding rounds during the year were by Paytm which scored $500 million; classifieds portal Quikr landed $150 million; restaurant discovery portal Zomato took in $60 million; Flipkart received $700 million; and music streaming service Saavn, mobile advertising firm InMobi, and online furniture retailer PepperFry were funded to the tune of $100 million each.

The top five investors were: Sequoia Capital backing 33 startups, Accel Partners invested in 32 companies, Tiger Global funded 28, SAIF Partners and Kalaari Capital took a stake in 19 organisations each, the report added. Of the 4,200 startups, 1,200 were tech startups and majority of them were e-commerce, consumer service, and aggregators, the report said.

National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) President R Chandrashekhar said that apart from positively impacting the lifestyles of citizens involved, the start-ups were creating innovative technology solutions.

"These solutions are addressing the key social problems that India was facing and creating significant growth opportunities for stakeholders," he added.

The past year also saw the emergence of ambitious young entrepreneurs with new ideas who are focusing on the strengths and innovation potential of the Indian startup ecosystem, which has matured a lot compared with the last few years.

Executive Director of the Mumbai-based Astarc Ventures, Salil Musale, said that a significant number of investments were made in mobile app based startups from restaurant discovery and food delivery, to home services, and taxi hailing startups during the year.

"The venture capitalists became moderately cautious with focus on unit economics and path to profitability on some of these trends, but disruptive ideas and strong teams continued to attract capital," he told ZDNet.

Terming 2015 as a "hallmark year" for Indian startups, Musale said that higher risk appetites among investors, especially in the seed and series A levels, bolstered the confidence of the entrepreneurs and encouraged them to come up with innovative ideas.

The year also witnessed an increase in the quality of entrepreneurs who were looking at building software and hardware products for the global market besides the emergence of startups in areas such as foodtech, fintech, robotics, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

There was also increased support from the Indian government and the states in the form of incentives, public listing opportunities, and other avenues in establishing the startups.

"We also witnessed how the investors burn their fingers with certain business models in the B2C space," Musale said.

Astarc Ventures has made 7 investment commitments in 2015 and the company is planning to increase the number to 10 in 2016.

"We will look at investing in futuristic disruptive technology startups like our recent investment in Absentia Virtual Reality, and also at companies which are strategic to existing business domains, and those which could be allied [with] instore retail analytics, automotive IoT, store display solutions, home decor, agri-tech," Musale said.

Financial technology and software have been big areas of interest besides consumer media, according to Sudhir Sethi, Founder Chairman and Managing Director IDG Ventures India.

Sethi said that companies like CreditMantri, LetsVenture, Momoe in the fintech space, and NestAway, POPXo, Rentomojo, Tripoto in the consumer media space were funded by IDG Ventures India this year.

"Another noteworthy change has been the emergence of Indian rupee capital as a major force in the form of LPs (investors in funds) and our company led that strategy of raising rupee capital for the venture asset class in India," Sethi said.

Giving details of the investments by IDG Ventures, Sethi said that the company participated in 32 transactions and they included 16 Series A rounds, eight seed deals and three were a follow-on round within the same calendar year.

"We expect a renewed focus on funding around enterprise applications and mobile-first models around content and commerce. Fintech will be a key focus area as well. Business models which are capital efficient will continue to attract capital as they scale," he opined.

NASSCOM, which released the second edition on Indian startups entitled Start-up India - Momentous Rise of the Indian Start-up Ecosystem, wants the government to formulate a policy to promote their overall growth and foster an environment of entrepreneurship. Even infrastructure should be developed across cities for better connectivity, transportation, and basic amenities to spur business growth.

"The government should lay out rules on exit options for entrepreneurs as well as investors to boost cross border M&As," NASSCOM said.

Some states like Karnataka and Rajasthan have already launched state-level policies in the recent past and more states are expected to follow suit in the coming year.

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