Indian startup picks: India’s top founders & VCs pick their startup of 2020



ET asked top startup founders to pick their Startup of the Year and explain why. They also summed up how pandemic year of 2020 transformed them as founders.

Kunal Bahl, cofounder & CEO, Snapdeal

Kunal BahlETtech

My Pick: Zerodha

What it does: Online Discount Broker

Why I picked it? The company has continued to innovate in the space it currently leads, while building a very profitable business.

How has Covid-19 transformed me as a founder? Given the acceleration of digital adoption across consumers and businesses, the velocity of incredibly creative entrepreneurial ideas has been tremendous. This year has required one to be open to ideas that are creating groundbreaking impact in sectors that have traditionally seen limited interest from the most talented entrepreneurs.

Big tech shift expected in 2021? In 2021, the world’s experience with the pandemic will accelerate the healthcare industry’s rapid adoption of technology as well as consumers’ adoption of preventive healthcare technologies.

Vidit Aatrey, cofounder & CEO, Meesho

Vidit AatreyETtech

My pick: Swiggy

What does it do: Online food delivery app

Why I picked it? Successfully managing the Covid-19 crisis by gradually building trust with consumers around safety, successful launches of Instamart and Genie during these tough times.

How Covid-19 transformed me as a founder: Reinforced the value of building a mission-oriented team and high trust workplace, because these are the bonds that make your team stick with you in tough times.

Big Tech shift expected in 2021: Before 2020, most small businesses resisted taking their business online. But Covid-19 changed their perspective altogether. So I expect a massive surge in online adoption for small businesses and lots of startups building products to enable that.

Vineeta Singh, cofounder & CEO, Sugar Cosmetics

Vineeta SinghETtech

My Pick: Nykaa

What it does: Omnichannel Beauty Retailer

Why I picked it? A capital-efficient, profitable Unicorn founded by a woman with solid customer cohorts. It’s a powerful and inspiring story for all entrepreneurs, especially women.

How has Covid-19 transformed me as a founder? 2020 has made me more grateful as an entrepreneur, for the customers, team and investors we have that allowed us to fight this crisis hard and emerge stronger! It has also made me rethink my beliefs around remote work/hiring and I expect the same to impact how we look at scaling the business in the next decade.

Big tech shift expected in 2021? As uncertainty around physical workspaces will continue, most software and services will move to the cloud to enable easier collaboration and dependence on physical infrastructure.

Tarun Davda, MD, Matrix Partners

Tarun DavdaETtech

My Pick: Zerodha

What it does: Zerodha is India’s largest stockbroker that pioneered the discount broking model in India.

Why I picked it? Zerodha had a tremendous year by consolidating its position as the number one broker in the country. 2020 saw their pace of customer acquisition accelerating off a higher base. They continue to launch innovative new products such as the ability to place basket orders or integration with debt marketplaces, among others. Finally, Zerodha is one of the rare tech companies that is bootstrapped, very large, and very profitable!

How has Covid-19 transformed me as an investor? The word “risk” has a whole new meaning! 2020 was also a reminder that disproportionate gains are made during periods of market dislocation in firms that rapidly adapt to or benefit from changing user preference.

Big tech shift expected in 2021? Private electric mobility

Arjun Sethi, cofounder, Tribe Capital

Arjun SethiETtech

My Pick: Zomato

What it does: Online food delivery and review technology company.

Why I picked it? Covid-19 saw a surge of demand for at-home delivery which catapulted Zomato in terms of sales growth. The team’s execution in expanding beyond India into MENA, SE Asia and ANZ has been equally impressive. I have also been a fan of the company’s culture — the emphasis on transparency (both with successes and failures), and the use of data and analytics to better understand people who actually use their products.

How has Covid-19 transformed me as an investor? Covid-19 has not altered industries, as much as it has accelerated pre-existing trends. Before the pandemic, companies were shifting towards remote workforces and consumers were spending a growing share of wallet online rather than on brick-and-mortar stores. Then, a “black swan” event suddenly forced companies and people all over the world to change their behaviours. The result has been much steeper adoption curves.

One big technological shift expected in 2021? I expect the empowerment of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) in India to be a big theme of 2021. This year, the government of India relaxed the requirements for businesses to be classified as one of these segments (micro, small, medium) and in turn, receive government benefits.

Sujeet Kumar, cofounder, Udaan

Sujit KumarETtech

My Pick :

What it does: Recruitment startup for grey and blue-collar workers

Why I picked it? We hire thousands of workers all across India. To hire the right skilled people at the right location is a huge challenge and comes with a very high cost. With relevant tech solutions, Apna is building the right product. It brings lots of cost advantages, visibility and transparency into the organisation.

How has Covid-19 transformed me as a founder? It has broadened our understanding of technology and its implementation. Covid-19 has impacted us on the optimistic side as well and made us much stronger as individuals. Even with so many constraints, we have learnt to grow the business and build a world-class team.

One big technological shift expected in 2021? There will be many technological shifts, like digitisation of trade, education, financial services and many more.


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