Unicorns of India, from YourStory, is the definitive compilation of valuable data and business insights that map the transformation of India’s most valuable startups.


India’s startup ecosystem has been growing by leaps and bounds, and the yardstick of its growth has moved beyond the annual summation of the deal values and deal counts.


As per YourStory Research, India is now home to a total of 100 unicorns - 92 of which are active - startup unicorns with billion-dollar-plus valuations, and their cumulative valuation is pegged in excess of a whopping $331.37 billion, and counting.

Such has been the spectacular rise in the number of unicorns in India that 2021 witnessed an addition of 44 startups to the coveted billion-dollar club. And, 2022 seems no different as January to May saw elevation of 15 startups to the unicorns club. 

This phenomenal success calls for a thorough analysis of the unicorns’ business models, their funding history, and most importantly, the investors who have demonstrated faith in the ability of the founders.

This first-ever Unicorns of India report is enriched with years of data collated at YourStory – India's biggest and definitive platform for startups and entrepreneurs.

Unicorns of India


Unicorn rising: The India success story

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Priya Rajan

Managing Director

Silicon Valley Bank

As per myths and folklore, unicorns have many powers — they can heal, make wishes come true, and have super speed. Truth be told, real-world unicorns are not very different from the mythical ones spoken of with such reverence.


India’s startup unicorns are scripting stories of their own. Disrupting business models, pushing the boundaries of tech-enabled solutions, generating employment, solving larger social and economic problems of the country — these unicorns are working magically, boosting higher hopes for the ecosystem.


The Indian wonders


India is now home to a total of 91 startup unicorns, and their cumulative valuation is pegged in excess of a whopping $331.37 billion, and counting. Trumping many developed economies, including China and the US, in adding new unicorns during the third quarter (Q3) of calendar year 2021, India, which is one of the world's fastest-growing startup ecosystems, has seen startups like Fractal Analytics, LEAD School, Polygon, CredAvenue, Oxyzo, Games24X7  and Open joining the unicorn club.


One of the world's fastest-growing startup ecosystems


The world witnessed the potential of digitisation as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated consumer adoption of digital services; and India leveraged this to its full capacity. A large part of Indian customers who traditionally had been the users of brick and mortar businesses were seen opting for online services. 


Industry leaders and experts have been quoted mentioning how the internet has made products and services geography and time agnostic, lowering the entry barriers for startup players to flourish. Sectors such as fintech, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and edtech have seen the most number of unicorns. A deeper look at the sector wise breakup suggests that the Indian startup ecosystem’s initial tryst with unicorns was dominated by the business-to-consumer (B2C) startups. 


While there are 58 B2C unicorns in India at present, the mix has evolved with 42 business-to-business (B2B) startups. Also noteworthy is that among the 100 unicorns, 92 of which are active, fintech has 19 representatives while enterprisetech has 14. While 2021 saw the addition of 10 fintech and 4 enterprisetech startups among the 44 unicorn additions, the tables seem to have turned in 2022 with 3 enterprisetech and 3 fintech startups joining the unicorns' club among the 15 additions until May 2022. 

What’s next?


The COVID-19 pandemic prompted startups to identify and bridge gaps, and even pivot their business models to make their existing solutions align with the new evolving demands of their customers. 


Industry leaders, unicorn founders and experts believe that the growth of unicorns will heavily rely on entrepreneurs building a business that creates value for customers, suppliers and ecosystem-at-large. With capital coming in, markets opening up, digital infrastructure getting strengthened, a long growth path is laid out for the Indian unicorns.  


A recent joint study by venture capital firm Chiratae Ventures and management consultancy firm Zinnov, titled 'Indian SaaS Revolution: Rising Trillion Dollar Global Opportunity', stated that the SaaS industry in India is expected to grow by 5X over the next five years. 


It added that the capital required for B2B SaaS startups to reach the unicorn status is half that of B2C startups in India, and the revenue per employee for SaaS companies stands at twice that in the IT Services industry. 


Experts claim that the global SaaS market is poised to reach a size of $400 billion by 2025, and the Indian SaaS players will be fulfilling 19 percent of that global market.


The year of IPOs for India


In addition to the announcements of new unicorns, the year has also been noteworthy for its hot initial public offering (IPO) market. It began with Zomato, CarTrade, and Freshworks, then Nykaa, PB Fintech (which runs PolicyBazaar) and Paytm, and soon Delhivery, Five Star Business Finance and PharmEasy will be going public. 


Overall, the year 2021 has been touted as India’s best year ever for IPOs with a record raise of over Rs 1.18 lakh crore ($16.0 billion) through 63 issues, beating the previous record of 2017 when Rs 67,147 crore ($10.3 billion) was raised through 36 issues.


Backing India’s dream of becoming $5 trillion economy by 2025. 


Beating the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Indian startup ecosystem, India is poised to produce 100+ unicorns, with a total market value north of $500 billion.  


At her recent participation in the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was quoted saying, “With the current reset in the global supply chain and clear headed and committed leadership in India, I see opportunities galore in India for all investors and industry stakeholders.” 


Currently, most of the standout innovation verticals that the Indian startup ecosystem has seen have addressed India’s historical and prominent challenges such as low productivity, high supply chain costs, trading and middlemen inefficiencies, inadequate access to financing and banking services, and meagre healthcare infrastructure, and access. 


Many startups have solved these challenges by linking producers and users keeping the convenience and relevance in mind. It’s time now for the government and private players to work together to solve the inefficiencies systematically using innovation and resilience. 


Catalysts aboard


SVB’s Global Gateway team is focused on helping founders in international markets with their cross-border banking needs. We work with Indian venture-backed companies, based either in India or the US. US investors are growing extremely bullish on the Indian venture ecosystem, investing a record $21 billion as of Q3 2021; five years ago this number was $3 billion for the whole year. At SVB, we are also very optimistic and hope to play our part in helping the ecosystem flourish.

About the Author - Priya Rajan

Priya Rajan is the Managing Director at Silicon Valley Bank. As the Market Lead for India and Middle East and North Africa, she works closely with companies, entrepreneurs and venture capital funds with their cross border banking needs and provides international market entry advice and introductions with a focus on technology and innovation.


Through her work at SVB, Priya supports entrepreneurs who strive to make the world a better place, and she echoes that commitment in her free time as well. She’s on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bay Area and of Women Who Code, an organization dedicated to helping women to excel in technology careers.

In addition, Priya is a charter member of TiE, a nonprofit focused on nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs, as well as a venture partner at Xfund, which connects venture capital firms with superior research universities and advisor at Entrepreneurship at Cornell University.

Key highlights

Beyond just unicorn names, the Unicorns of India report captures the time period taken by each unicorn since its incorporation to earn the decorated tag.

The Indian startup ecosystem’s initial tryst with unicorns was dominated by the business-to-consumer (B2C) startups. While there are 58 B2C unicorns in India at present, the mix has evolved with 42 business-to-business (B2B) startups.

Table of contents

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Evolution of startup unicorns

  • The startup unicorns’ conferral years

  • The startup unicorns’ time journey from incorporation to becoming unicorns

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The unicorns’ business-model analysis

  • The domination of the B2C unicorns

  • The buzzing of the B2B unicorns

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The sectoral-mix of the

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Top investors in unicorns

  • The top 44 investors’ participation in the unicorns’ funding rounds

  • Top 44 investors having investment in more than 5 unicorns

  • The unicorns-top 44 investors’ mix

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Unicorns’ location

  • Where are the unicorns born?

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2021 - the year of Indian unicorns

  • Age of 2021 unicorns

  • 2021 – B2B vs. B2C unicorns

  • Sectoral-mix of the 2021 unicorns

Evolution of the startup unicorns

India’s tryst with startup unicorns began way back in 2011 when adtech startup InMobi attained the coveted billion-dollar valuation. There were intermittent years of lull, as 2013 saw MuSigma becoming the second unicorn, while 2015 saw a hattrick in the form of Ola, Paytm, and Zomato.

Then, 2017 saw cleantech major – ReNew Power – becoming India’s next unicorn. The consistency in the evolution of the unicorns began in 2018 with 8 startups elevating to the billion-dollar valuation club, followed by another 8 in 2019.

In 2020, for the first time, double-digit number — 11 startups — entered the unicorns club, taking the total to 33 at the end of 2020. And, during 2021, 44 new unicorns have been added, marking a 133 percent growth compared to the cumulative number of unicorns added between 2011 and 2020.

Just like 2021, the current year is likely to become another year of unabated rise of unicorns, as 15 new unicorns have been added to the coveted list between January to early-May 2022.

The startup unicorns’ conferral years: From under-10 a year between 2011 to 2018, the elevation from startup to unicorn picked up in 2020 when 11 unicorns were born in a single-year. However, 2021, with 44 unicorns, has broken all past records by adding four times the number of unicorns compared to 2020. Also, the number added in 2021 exceeds the number of active unicorns cumulatively born from 2011 to 2020 by over 1.33 times. The trend is likely to continue in 2022, as January to early-May saw the evolution of 15 new unicorns.


The unicorns’ business-model analysis

The business-to-consumer (B2C) versus business-to-business (B2B) startups’ evolution to the coveted billion-dollar valuation club has been interesting. While B2C startups grabbed the investors’ attention with a lion’s-share of the total funding received over the years, the B2B startups too have been relevant since 2011. The first two unicorns — InMobi and MuSigma — are the point in case.

B2B vs. B2C unicorns: Out of the 100 unicorns, 58 are B2C startups that have been the torchbearers of the Indian startup ecosystem. The remaining 42 are B2B startups that have become unicorns since 2011.


The sectoral-mix of the unicorns

While the 100 Indian startup unicorns have representation from 32 different sectors, 13 unicorns are single representatives of their respective sectors, while 8 sectors have 2 unicorns each.

Fintech—with 19 unicorns—and enterprise-tech, with 14, account for 19.0 percent and 14.0 percent respectively of the 100 unicorns' universe. Ecommerce, edtech, automtive, and foodtech, with 9 unicorns (9.0 percent), 6 (6.0 percent), 4 (4.0 percent) and 4 (4.0 percent), respectively are the other leading sectors with relatively higher number of unicorns. Healthtech, cryptocurrency, and Web3 with 3 (3.0 percent), (2.0 percent) and 1 (1.0 percent) unicorns each, mark the arrival of the newer sectors among the 32 sectors, which are represented by the 100 unicorns.


Top investors in unicorns

Although innumerable investors have reposed faith in the startups, a total of 44 investors have placed their bets on 5 or more unicorns.

While investor-level and funding round-level data decoding is a futile exercise, owing to the private nature of investments and operations, the top 44 investors have had their involvement across an approximate total of 967 funding rounds.

Top 44 investors’ and their funding rounds’ dataTiger Global is the most active investor in Indian unicorns, with exposure to 44 of the 100 (44.0 percent in volume). Among the top five, Steadview Capital at fifth, has exposure to 16 unicorns. Ten investment firms have exposure to at least five unicorns each.

When it comes to conviction of top 44 investors in the unicorns, Nexus Venture Partners is an outlier — it has participated in 29 funding rounds across its 7 unicorns. As a ratio, that works out to 4.1 funding rounds per unicorn. Accel — 72 funding rounds across its 21 unicorns — is next with a ratio of 3.4 funding rounds per unicorn in its portfolio.

Unicorns' location 

All the 100 unicorns are headquartered among seven Indian cities, wherein Bengaluru grabs the tag of the country’s unicorn capital with home to 38 of the 100 unicorns, followed by Delhi-NCR, which houses 28 unicorns, and Mumbai, at number three, is home to 18 unicorns.

Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Malappuram are the other five cities which are home to 6, 5, 3, 1, and 1 unicorns each. Jaipur and Malappuram, the only non-metro cities where automotive startup CarDekho and neobanking fintech Open respectively hail from, are also an endorsement of the fact that investors have an eye for potential, which takes them beyond the hotbeds of India’s Startup Inc.


2021 – the year of Indian startup unicorns

Of all the years since 2011, the year 2021 rightfully deserves to be called the year of Indian startup unicorns, as 44 unicorns have emerged during the year, which are an addition of over 133 percent to the 33 unicorns that have evolved between 2011 and 2020.

Age of 2021 unicorns: While 2021 saw the oldest (Five Star Business Finance – 37 years) and youngest (Mensa Brands – 6 months) startups’ evolution to become unicorns, there were four years — 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2018, when 5, 10, 7, and 5 companies got incorporated.

2022 – Unabated Unicorns

The year 2022 seems to be following 2021 - the year of Indian startup unicorns - as Januaruy to early-May saw the addition of 15 new startups to the coveted billion-dollar unicorn club.


Given that the January-May 2022 registered an addition of over 34 percent of the total unicorns added during 2021, the year seems to be on track to be the best since 2011. 

Age of 2022 unicorns: The 2022 unicorns have been collectively around for 133 years - with the oldest (Fractal Analytics– 22 years) and youngest (DealShare – 4 years) startups’ evolution to become unicorns. Uniphore and Amagi Media Labs - the enterprisetech players - are the other unicorns which have been around for 14 years.

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© 2021 YourStory Media Pvt. Ltd.

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