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Monday, January 17, 2022

Myths and magic of Indian unicorn startups

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Every day of the past week has been enjoyable and memorable for the startup world. During this period of time, six Internet-based companies achieved unicorn status. That is, the valuation of these companies has crossed the one billion dollar level. This thing was also celebrated vigorously. The message contained in it is that India has finally come to the stage where achieving a billion dollar level of a private startup is no longer an unprecedented event.

As of April 2021, 29 out of 642 unicorns worldwide are located in India, according to the database of American analytics platform CB Insights. Another data from Venture Intelligence states that Indian unicorns are 47 in number and are increasing. This difference in data is due to the way the unicorn is calculated. Unicorns at more than a billion dollars valuation, Deacron at more than $ 10 billion valuations, and Hectocorns at more than $ 100 billion valuations are considered, and the determination depends on which startup was on which list.

Talking about global ranking, becoming a unicorn of a startup definitely confirms its growth saga but it is not a huge achievement there. The reason is that there is nothing specific about evaluating startups. This is the indicative value of a startup that is dependent on the estimation of key indicators of cash flow availability, ambition, and funding. Since valuation has nothing to do with revenue, profits or any other traditional business standard, it is more driven by investor sentiment. Investors in the startup world often have tough performance targets in front of companies. On other occasions, he wants the customers to be connected with the company irrespective of the figures.

There have been many cases where startups have failed despite high valuations. Institutions with star founders also did not survive the drowning. Think of all the startups like Flipkart, Housing.com, Snapdeal. The brightly named investors who help startups reach prominence, they maintain complete control throughout the journey. The founding investor usually comes into the public domain when a startup sells or attempts to sell.

In the case of Flipkart, Sachin Bansal, a co-founder of the company and a poster boy of e-commerce in the country, IIT, stepped down in 2018 when a group of investors, including Tiger Global Management’s Lee Fixel, held a majority stake in the Bangalore-based company Deal to sell to Walmart for $ 16 billion. Sachin Bansal did not have much authority to say much in the board room talks of the company which was founded by Sachin Bansal along with Binny Bansal about 10 years ago. Sachin wanted to increase his stake but he could not do so. They look absent in the picture taken after the deal. He informed in a tweet that he is now separate from Flipkart. Another case that made headlines was the search portal Housing.com of the real estate sector.

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Its co-founder and CEO Rahul Yadav sent an e-mail in 2015 to Shailendra Singh of Sequoia Capital, a major investor. In this mail that was made public, Yadav, then 25 years old (who dropped out of IIT studies), said that he would leave the company if investors did not stop engaging with him. But he wrote a line that ensured his exit; Yadav wrote that this would mark the beginning of the end of the Sekoya cap in the country. A lot of this happened after that. Yadav resigned from the board citing lack of discussion with investors and board members, who later withdrew his resignation and eventually left the company.

The quote from two people is worth noting in the midst of a rapidly growing unicorn race in the country. After Flipkart, Sachin Bansal, who started a fintech company called Navi Technologies, and Kunal Shah, founder of credit card bill payment platform CRED (which recently became a unicorn). Sachin said that most entrepreneurs work only because of their attachment to the enterprise and assets are only figures because they know they will never be able to consume it.

Shah said that unicorn fame and high valuation etc. are all showy and important is to earn profits of the company. He said that unicorns are the center of shareholders’ trust and hope. Sachin may be speaking from the experience of being the founder of one of the country’s earliest and most successful unicorns, but Shah has been in entrepreneurship for quite some time and he knows what the real value of unicorns is?

Initially, the pace of announcements regarding unicorns was also slow. For example, the news of Flipkart touching a billion-dollar magic figure came out in 2013 even though it had joined the Unicorn Club a year earlier. Nasper of South Africa, one of the company’s new investors, valued the company at $ 1.04 billion based on its last funding a year ago. This was part of the annual report to the shareholders. It said that the company invested $ 100 million in August 2012 for a 10 per cent stake in Flipkart. As it is said, the rest is history.

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Mirza Shehnaz
Shehnaz Ali Siddiqui is a Corporate Communications Expert by profession and writer by Passion. She has experience of many years in the same. Her educational background in Mass communication has given her a broad base from which to approach many topics. She enjoys writing around Public relations, Corporate communications, travel, entrepreneurship, insurance, and finance among others.
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