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City of Unicorn Startups

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As of 29 August 2022, India has become the 3rd largest start-up ecosystem globally with over 77,000 start-ups recognized by DPIIT across 656 districts of the country. India ranks 2nd in the quality of innovation with the highest positions in the quality of scientific publications and the quality of its university among middle-income economies. Innovation in India is not limited to certain industries. We recognized start-ups solving problems in 56 different industries, with 13% IT services, 9% healthcare and life sciences, 7% education, 5% professional and commercial services, 5% agriculture, and 5% food and beverage.

India’s unicorns are thriving in today’s fast-paced and dynamic economy. These start-ups not only develop innovative solutions and technologies but also generate a large number of jobs. Until the 2016-17 fiscal year, there was an increase of approximately one unicorn each year. Over the past four years (as of the fiscal year 2017-18), this number has grown exponentially, with a 66% year-over-year increase in the number of additional unicorns each year. As of September 7, 2022, India is home to 107 unicorns with a total value of $340.79 billion. Of the total number of unicorns, 44 unicorns were born in 2021 with a total valuation of $93.00 billion, and 21 unicorns were born in 2022 with a total valuation of $26.99 billion.

What Triggered the Unicorn Rush in 2021?

While working from home during the pandemic has fueled the growth of digital businesses in India, the incident has also resulted in a long list of unicorns. Mainly three factors, a thriving digital payments ecosystem, a large smartphone user base, and digital business models have come together to attract investors. Tech companies that have become household brands are contributing to India’s unicorn boom as smartphone penetration and digitization of commerce in all aspects of life have increased manifold during the pandemic. Apart from fintech, e-commerce food, SaaS and market players are the biggest contributors to the unicorn universe.

Indian start-ups have become unicorns in 2021

In 2021 alone, India witnessed the birth of 44 unicorns with a total value of $93 billion. Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, and Mumbai continue to be the capital cities preferred as unicorn headquarters in 2021. Unconventional sectors and sub-sectors have seen entry into the unicorn space, including NBFCs, conversational messaging, cryptocurrency exchanges, D2C, cloud kitchens, and many more.

Indian unicorns are also exploring public offerings as a next step to realize growth potential. Some of the big unicorn names that have floated IPOs include Zomato, Nykaa, PolicyBazaar, Paytm, and Freshworks, while many are already lined up like Delhivery, Mobikwik, and CarDekho.

Today, 1 in every 10 unicorns worldwide was born in India. Overall, 2021 is seeing an exponential boom in terms of start-ups entering the unicorn club. This is a testament to the vibrant start-up ecosystem in India.

To date, 2022 has seen the birth of 21 unicorns with a total value of $26.99 billion (as of September 7, 2022).

Chennai lags other Indian cities in the unicorn race

Chennai is lagging far behind in India’s unicorn race, according to an early-stage venture capital fund Orios Venture Partners’ report titled “Indian Tech Unicorn Report 2021” released on Thursday.

Industry experts ET spoke to say the city has lost out due to a lack of adequate investment in start-ups over the last 10 years but said it is gaining momentum now with the new government in place.

Bengaluru leads the pack and has been touted in the report as a ‘Unicorn Hub’ with 18 unicorns coming out of the city in 2021 and a whopping 35 in total. It is also the 7th largest unicorn center in the world. Delhi claimed the second spot with 13 unicorns, while Mumbai boasted 11 unicorns in the same period.

Interestingly, the report states that Mumbai saw a 3.2-fold increase in the total number of unicorns in 2021. In 2021, two unicorns appeared in Chennai. Jaipur joins the list of unicorn cities in 2021 with CarDekho.

According to the report, last year was the year of unicorns with 46 new unicorns, bringing the total number of unicorns in the country to 90. It was also a landmark year for tech IPOs with a total of 11 Indian start-ups (including 8 unicorns). raising $7.16 billion through public offerings, the report said.

Chennai has emerged more as a global capability center for large organizations, adding that many major global banks have their technology centersin Chennai, including the World Bank. Chennai has also emerged as a SaaS and Deep Tech hub.

The report states that it took an average of 7.8 years to produce a unicorn in 2021. This average is down from 9.9 years which was the case in 2020. Cumulatively, India has achieved 33 unicorns in less than 5 years. The trend that is being seen is the shortening of time as founders with previous founding or start-up experience come into play.


While every start-up has its own unique path to becoming a unicorn, the minimum and maximum time a start-up takes to become a unicorn are 6 months and 26 years, respectively. Mensa Brands took just 6 months to become a unicorn in 2021, becoming one of the fastest growing unicorns in Asia.

Amrin Ahmed

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