In 2020, Inc42 launched the ‘30 Startups To Watch’ monthly series to showcase sector-agnostic early stage companies with disruptive concepts
This month’s list includes 30 unique startups that have gathered momentum through the right product-market fit in sync with the new normal
In our opening edition in 2022 and 24th edition of the series, we have showcased companies that may emerge as the forerunners of new business models by reshaping operations through automation
The Union Budget 2022 is the hottest topic of discussion right now, and it has brought good tidings for the country’s startups. Globally, it remains the third-largest startup ecosystem after the US and China, affirms the Economic Survey 2022, and the total number of recognised startups in the country has now surpassed 61K.
This indicates a culture of resilience in the wake of the pandemic and the beginning of great innovation. Banking on artificial intelligence and machine learning, many early-stage startups covered here are looking to automate solutions to every problem, from deciding where to invest to the best possible hire for a company.
As we shortlisted the startups for the January 2022 edition while the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic raged on, the idea was to look for novel ideas and tech startups testing the theory ‘AI would be the future’.
30 Startups To Watch: January 2022
With the focus on startups automating processes for consumers and enterprises, we deep-dived into various sectors and handpicked some unique business models and excellent brands. From enabling ecommerce to creating healthy lifestyles and automating finances to hiring processes — these startups are literally transforming the traditional tech industry.
We have presented five lifestyle startups here, with fashion, healthy living and elective care being clubbed together. You will find as many fintech startups covering a wide range, from investing in startups after the successful run of Shark Tank India to goal-based savings. Better still, we found two exciting gaming companies, one an intriguing combination of trading and skill-based gaming and the other organising esports tournaments.
Although some of these startups are older than our usual list of three-year-olds, they began full-fledged operations only after 2019. As the need for product customisation and complementary business processes is rising fast, these startups have attracted a vast user base as they continue to solve fundamental pain points that hurt many sectors.
Check out the 24th edition of Inc42 Plus’ 30 Startups To Watch list.
Editor’s Note: The list below is not meant to be a ranking of any kind. We have listed the startups in alphabetical order.
Why 91SquareFeet Made It To The List
Online shopping has seen frenzied demand in the pandemic years as consumers prefer it for the sake of safety and convenience. But it is premature to write off brick-and-mortar retail in favour of ecommerce. Retail is now undergoing a tremendous transformation and entering the hybrid/omnichannel stage where offline will remain a key growth driver. Hence, setting up traditional retail stores in sync with the new-age mixed commerce has become the need of the hour. Launched in 2018, Gurugram-based 91SquareFeet helps retail brands to build and maintain their physical stores in India without big teams. It currently hosts 20+ clients such as Van Heusen, Philips, CEAT, Pepperfry, Chai Point and more.
The playbook is simple. If Chai Point wants to open a new physical store in Delhi, it can upload the store template, including colour charts, lighting schemes, flooring and fixtures on the startup’s project planning software. 91SquareFeet will break down the entire project in task-specific small chunks, allocate every component to the right supplier and work with contractors across the country.
The company undertakes civil and electrical work, interior and exterior branding, retail fit-outs and other custom requirements. It also reports work progress in real time. It has a project planning and management tool in place to access construction workers, furniture suppliers and brand builders for quick and efficient execution. Further, it sends all invoices to the retail brand concerned and pays suppliers and contractors directly.
The startup claims an ARR of $4 Mn for FY22. It has also tied up with 600 furniture workshops and 55 general contractors across 150 cities in 22 states. In the past nine months, 91SquareFeet has built 300+ stores and plans to set up as many stores every month in 2022.
Why Aarna Networks Made It To The List
With the successful deployment of 5G and Edge computing in the near future, the existing cloud ecosystem will undergo a sea change, primarily due to new use cases such as network slicing, O-RAN, multiplayer ecosystem and more. To enable a smooth transition of existing work processes in the cloud after 5G implementation, Bengaluru-based Aarna Networks has been building an open-source software since 2018 for orchestration, lifecycle management and automation of 5G network services and Edge computing applications.
Aarna hosts a multi-cluster orchestration platform available as licensed software, helping manage all 5G and Edge computing issues. It aims to automate cloud-native 5G network services and Edge computing applications using intent-based real-time, closed-loop automation. The vendor-neutral platform caters to Samsung, Capgemini and Tata Communications, among others, and provides services for O-RAN SMO, 5GC and MEC management, E2E 5G network slicing and PNF management across India, the US and most recently, Japan.
By 2025, it will increase its team size and expand its client base from the existing 10.
Why Algorithmic Biologics Made it To The List
Molecular testing that tracks and analyses the genetic components of viruses is a complex and crucial service offered by many healthtech companies across the globe. In fact, molecular diagnostics is required by a wide range of stakeholders, including research institutes and pathology labs, pharma companies and medical practitioners, for timely and accurate analysis of any sample. So in 2021, Manoj Gopalakrishnan, an associate professor at the department of electrical engineering, IIT-Bombay, set up Algorithmic Biologics, a deeptech startup working towards better healthcare solutions.
Its patented product called Tapestry decodes a human genetic conversation with molecules to enhance population-scale diagnosis. The solution is built to wrap around laboratory tests like the qPCR, mass spectrometry and next-gen sequencing without additional machine costs.
Tapestry has been developed for diagnosing the Covid-19 virus and certain IEMs (inborn errors of metabolism are rare genetic disorders caused by enzyme defects). But it is also extended to other areas and applications like food testing, where molecular data is crucial. The company claims that the cutting-edge tech enables path labs to conduct Covid-19 RT-qPCR screening at one-third of the current market cost.
The healthtech SaaS company has a subscription model in place and serves diagnostic companies, biotechnology firms and agri MNCs across all Indian states via its 1K+ partner outlets. It has also filed for five patents in 2021 and processed more than 20K paid screenings since its launch.
Algorithmic plans to explore two more commercial use cases in 2022 and enter a couple of global partnerships. In addition, it aims to venture into pharma and biologics by 2025.
Why Arthan Finance Made It To The List
Sixty-five million MSMEs worldwide face a financing shortfall of $5.2 Tn every year, says an IFC report. The Indian scenario is no different, even though the country’s MSMEs contribute around 29% of the GDP. Launched in 2018, Mumbai-based Arthan Finance aims to bring this underserved segment back into the mainstream financial ecosystem and offers loans worth INR 2,000-2 Lakh to small businesses via smart branches, digital partnerships and supply chain financing.
Currently operating in Maharashtra and Odisha, Arthan’s smart branches focus on large-ticket, asset-backed lending. Its non-infra partnership offering is available in 20 states, providing unsecured, small-ticket loans for short-term working capital requirements via algorithm-based underwriting. The company also offers supply chain/invoice financing for up to three months. Its lending partners include RBL Bank, Ambit Finvest, KredX and others.
The startup has disbursed INR 50 Cr loans to more than 5K businesses, deriving revenue from interest, fees, referrals and value-added services. With an ARR of INR 10 Cr for FY22, the fintech firm aims to disburse more than INR 200 Cr in loans to 25K+ businesses in 2022. It also plans to launch a mobile app and venture into big-ticket lending (up to INR 20 Lakh) and loan insurance. By 2025, Arthan aims to cater to more than 1 Lakh MSMEs and disburse loans worth INR 2,000 Cr.
Why BharatX Made It To The List
Although banks and NBFC provide unsecured loans, most borrowers looking to raise small loans face rejection due to their failure to submit the right documents. On the other hand, a consumer’s cash flow can be easily tracked by monitoring their communication (SMS, mail and the like). So, raising small loans should be easier with proper tech intervention instead of the current emphasis on documents alone. Bengaluru-based BharatX was built around this concept when it was launched in 2020 with a white-label, embedded credit product that can turn any consumer internet company into a credit/loan provider with 30 lines of code.
Simply put, the company enables consumer internet companies to offer credit to their users, be it in the form of UPI credit, instalment payment, pay later option or a wholly customised offering. Some special offerings include Khata, where users can buy groceries and daily essentials on credit, try-and-buy fashion on loan, pay later for food delivery and payment apps and postpaid features for ride-hailing apps.
What’s more, consumer-facing businesses need not worry about credit risk, capital or operations. They are paid their dues upfront, and BharatX acts as the intermediary credit provider and risk-taker, charging a value-based interest rate from consumers and a transaction fee from embedding companies.
The startup has a personal loan approval rate of 45% against the industry average of 30%. It plans to reach 100K users in 2022 and build a loan book of $10 Bn by 2025.
Why Courseplay Made It To The List
The Covid-19 pandemic has reshaped almost every aspect of learning, be it the K-12 segment, upskilling/reskilling of professionals or mentoring employees to help them grow. Conceptualised in 2012, Mumbai-based Courseplay has been in the education space for around a decade but gained momentum only recently, thanks to the newfound focus on learning and development (L&D).
The startup provides an AI-powered talent experience platform to enterprise clients in India and the Middle East. Its service suite includes intelligent insights, training modules and recommendations to ensure better performance via engaging content. It also automates tedious L&D workflows and measures training impact. Some of its key clients are Amazon, SpiceJet and CaratLane.
The company has an annual subscription model in place that depends on the company’s size. After onboarding an enterprise client, it provides sector-specific training modules, interactive activities, an LMS (learning management system) solution, a dashboard to track employee wellness (work-related and personal) and behavioural, performance and assessment cards to employees, their mentors and the HR.
Courseplay claims a 50% revenue growth year on year and targets 4x growth after raising a seed round of $370K in January 2021. The startup plans to enter the Southeast Asian market in 2022 and aims to develop its AI capabilities by 2025 to become a market leader in employee experience solutions.
Why Crib Made It To The List
Set up in 2021, Gurugram-based Crib is creating a digital ecosystem for end-to-end housing solutions, catering to owners and tenants (currently focusses on the co-living ecosystem), buyers and sellers. Its property management software will enable property owners to automate business operations and streamline finances through a bouquet of features, including tenant onboarding, service requests, payment collection and reconciliation, visitor tracking, amenity booking and inventory management. Additionally, there will be a brokering feature where users can mediate buying and selling.
The SaaS-based marketplace model will be formally launched in February 2022. But the company says it has already amassed an inventory of 25K beds for rent. The startup plans to monetise its business from commissions earned on property sales, but the nitty-gritty of the renting module is yet to be freezed. For instance, it will soon launch an app to help landlords list their properties manually, while prospective tenants can search and book places for rent. There will be a community section for users to act as real estate agents.
Currently, Crib is open for early access and creating a co-living ecosystem across Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR. It plans to expand its inventory to 100K beds by March 2022 and 3 Mn beds by 2025.
Why EsportsXO Made It To The List
When India went into the first pandemic-induced lockdown during March-August 2020, online gaming saw an unprecedented surge with people gunning for real-money games. This all-new entertainment trend also caught the attention of the Indian startup ecosystem. So, Bengaluru-based EsportsXO built a tournament discovery platform and provided management solutions for tournament organisers and esports such as PUBG Mobile (the government banned it in September 2020, but it is back now), Call of Duty, Clash Royale, Valorant and many more.
Started in 2020, the startup’s SaaS platform called BattleXO designs, launches and manages online gaming competitions, thus bringing a community of PC, mobile and console gamers from all over the world under a single roof. The product’s USP lies in specific use cases. For instance, when people are on the esports platform, they will find a panel of expert gamers and game developers as well as new games. Again, the streaming platform features content creators and production tools to help brands create advertisements and promotional content. For brands looking to advertise via gamers-turned-influencers, EsportsXO also provides marketing solutions focussed on timings, creatives and analytics.
With more than six IPs, 75+ creators and 20 Mn+ subscribers, EsportsXO makes money from platform fee and production, marketing and tournament management. It claims to clock $1.15 Mn in monthly billings and will scale its production house to manage large tournaments for domestic and international markets. In 2021, it also launched TeamXO, a group of online gamers to be paid and trained for participating in esports tournaments. The startup is currently working on microservices in the gaming metaverse and will release these by FY25.
Why FanAnywhere Made It To The List
The year 2021 was the year of the NFT craze, and many Indian celebrities, from Big B to Rajinikanth to Yuvraj Singh, launched their own digital collectables. Better still, fans paid huge sums to own those, and the celebs earned millions of dollars. However, celeb-fan engagement is not always smooth in India and the fan economy in the country is anything but organised. To make things more streamlined, accessible and profitable for all, Mumbai-based FanAnywhere was launched in 2021 as a one-stop blockchain interface for celebs to engage with their followers.
In an all-new approach, the company offers celebrities some dedicated space in the metaverse to host concerts, participate in games, hold one-to-one connections and market/sell NFTs. Its unique offerings also include gasless transactions, fiat payment through credit card and bank transfer and a custodial wallet service so that fans need not worry about not having their private wallets.
FanAnywhere plans to launch in February 2022 and will charge a commission for facilitating smooth NFT drops on its platform and trading commission from token transactions in the marketplace. On the other hand, celebrities and artists can monetise their artworks/digital assets and performances, earn a lifetime royalty and share success with their incentivised fans. Fans will further get premium rights and merchandise that can also be utilised in the real world.
Why Fego.AI Made It To The List
Chennai-based Fego was launched in 2020 to provide actionable financial insights when people transact with consumer internet companies. The AI-powered fintech platform offers a plug-and-play stack that developers/enterprises can embed to capture financial experiences in a bid to personalise user engagement.
Besides embedding transactional tools like digital wallets and UPI connectivity, consumer internet companies can add Fego’s three-part API to understand a user’s financial behaviour. These include an account aggregator kit, a white-label personal finance management kit and a client engagement dashboard. For instance, by tracking a person’s cash flows, liquidity and solvency patterns, a company can easily engage with him and offer investments, loans, or other relevant products. Other use cases include identifying creditworthiness, validating income, access to wealth insights, fraud monitoring and more.
With Fego’s fintech solutions in place, internet companies can offer a slew of services such as round-up and goal-based savings, a comprehensive financial calendar, cash flow and subscription management and financial health checks. This will help them emerge as a one-stop shop, meeting the end-to-end financial requirements of consumers. Fego is open for early access and will operate on subscription- and transaction-based revenue models, helping its B2B clients build personalised financial engagement and deliver financial products and services.
Why Fitpage Made It To The List
According to a Body Burden report, lifestyle and non-communicable diseases, especially cardiorespiratory conditions, are the biggest threats to Indians. Of course, gyms and yoga classes offer effective ‘fitness’ regimes for all age groups, but lifestyle diseases call for a more focussed approach instead of generic lessons. With that gap in mind, Vikas Singh, an avid sportsperson, has set up Fitpage to focus on cardiovascular fitness through education, nutrition and training. The startup’s official launch is planned for mid-February of 2022.
Mumbai-based Fitpage will offer science-backed content curated by global researchers and coaches, personalised fitness plans based on 10-minute tests and curated nutrition plans based on eating habits. It also plans to leverage the content-to-commerce model, banking on its existing content on running tips, event-specific exercises and personal hygiene guides, among others.
The company will adopt two operational models — the D2C market via an app and a website and the B2B2C model, where it will onboard corporate houses and offer a 10-week subscription programme. It recently acquired indiarunning.com, a running event listing and race registration platform, to provide these services to long-distance runners. Fitpage is also working on traction and aims to hit 300K app downloads by the end of 2022.
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Why Gobillion Made It To The List
Customers from small towns are essentially price-conscious and value the opinions of their closely-knit friends’ groups and communities. Consequently, they do not rely much on traditional ecommerce when it comes to shopping. This is where the two-year-old Gobillion comes into play. Based in Delhi-NCR, the company enables groups to purchase groceries and daily essentials through its app. Users can form social shopping teams with friends and family and shop together for great deals and huge discounts. (Interestingly, the Tata group-owned e-grocery behemoth BigBasket has recently adopted a community-buying model to deep dive into the Bharat market.)
Currently operational in Guwahati and Kolkata, the startup addresses several pain points such as consumer trust issues regarding ecommerce models and excessive charges slapped on dry grocery delivery to Tier 3 locations and beyond. It essentially aims to combine social shopping and group buying factors, while shopping on mainstream ecommerce platforms is often a solo activity.
Gobillion has an inventory-holding model, and grocery is its core category. It has recently added fresh fruits and vegetables to its product offerings and earns revenue through sales margins and in-app advertising.
The startup has reported an annualised GMV run rate of $3 Mn for FY22. It aims to enter two more locations by the end of the current calendar year and add a vernacular interface to its Android app. It plans to expand to 100+ Indian cities by 2025 and launch more categories, including fashion.
Why Groyyo Made It To The List
The world is transitioning towards industry 4.0, and SMEs are taking centre stage in Indian ecommerce. But most enterprises, big and small, find it difficult to digitalise their manufacturing processes. However, this is a must-do in the tech age as digital manufacturing enables prediction tools to optimise process changes and help automate production lines across industries.
Set up in 2021, Groyyo is a manufacturing automation startup that leverages the service of industry experts to help small manufacturers in areas like technology, innovation, artificial intelligence and standardisation. It also supports manufacturers across 150+ categories, especially those in fashion, furniture and footwear space, in terms of brand building through networking and efficiency enhancement up to 25%.
Why Hirect Made It To The List
Hiring tends to get tougher for little-known startups compared to well-established businesses and legacy companies that have existed for years. Startups mainly depend on external resources/references for acquiring human capital, and these agencies usually charge 10-15% of the annual CTC allocated for each role. Set up in 2020, Bengaluru-based Hirect aims to bridge this gap by connecting recruiters with job seekers without those intermediaries.
The startup has developed a mobile-first platform to help HR professionals, CXOs, founders and business owners hire for their companies. It also features an in-app chat and interview option, protecting user privacy and disallowing spam calls and emails. Currently, the platform is free for users, but a candidate can only apply to 20 jobs a day. Startups can list on the app as recruiters and post job listings.
Hirect’s USP is an AI-powered job-candidate matching algorithm, which means, unlike other job-listing platforms, people registered here need not manually search and apply for jobs. The algorithm will automatically recommend candidates to a recruiter based on the job description. The startup also uses the AI setup to verify candidates to avoid spam applications. Some of the noted recruiters on Hirect’s platform include Flipkart, Lenskart and Udaan.
The company is still in the pre-revenue stage but plans to have a freemium model, where recruiters will be given a certain number of free job postings and job seekers can chat with a limited number of recruiters for free. Hirect will charge a fixed amount over and above that quota.
The startup claims to have onboarded 50K+ verified recruiters and 2 Mn+ verified job seekers, while the app has seen 5 Mn+ downloads to date. It is currently operational in India and the US, but by 2025, it will foray into other countries with better internet connections and startup penetration.
Why iThrive Made It To The List
Obesity, diabetes and a host of other medical conditions come under lifestyle diseases that can be treated with a mix of nutrition, activity and mental well-being. Founded in 2019, Pune-based iThrive follows functional medicine to address the root causes of such conditions and treat them accordingly. It also trains healthcare practitioners, nutritionists and doctors about functional medicine and offers a line of nutritional supplements.
The startup claims to have worked on 150+ lifestyle diseases and provides one-on-one online consultation after clinical diagnosis through blood tests and other measures. During the consultation, a nutritionist discusses a patient’s health history and problems, shares dietary, fitness and wellness routines, and does regular follow-ups. iThrive charges INR 500 for the first consultation and a service fee for each follow-up.
Last year, the company launched its supplement line called iThrive Essentials, developed a proprietary root cause analysis software to understand health issues and launched an R&D division to focus on functional medicine, disease reversal, nutraceuticals and performance enhancement for which it has received approval to run clinical trials.
It plans to serve 200K people in 2022, up from 10K and targets a revenue of $50 Mn for FY23.
Why Kreate Made It To The List
It was a significant development when Meta-owned Instagram came out with a marketplace for individual creators in 2021 so that they could sell handmade and artisanal products. Although it is a great beginning, millions of creators often find it difficult to access marketplaces to sell customisable and made-to-order products. Bengaluru-based Kreate realised this problem even before Instagram and launched a creators’ marketplace in 2020 to help them sell directly to global consumers.
While the marketplace solely focusses on handcrafted and handmade goods, the startup helps sellers register on the platform, makes product catalogues and enables the entire order fulfilment procedure, from selling to delivery. Like other third-party ecommerce marketplaces, it charges a commission on each sale.
Besides pan-India operations, the company has seen early traction in the global market. It clocked a GMV of $2 Mn in 2021 and launched apps for Android and iOS users. With more than 8K small sellers on board, it offers 20K+ products and reaches out to 100K+ consumers across the country. It claims an ARR of INR 60 Lakh in FY22, with a 26% MoM revenue growth.
Kreate plans to onboard more than 50K sellers, get 250K+ app users and reach the $2 Mn revenue landmark in 2022. It also aims to build a community of 10 Mn+ creators and 500K+ independent and micro-entrepreneur and eyes $300 Mn in revenue by 2025.
Why Moneyboxx Finance Made It To The List
Microentrepreneurs like farmers, dairy workers, newspaper distributors or kirana store owners, especially those from Tier 3 locations and beyond, heavily depend on private financing and often fall prey to debt traps and sky-high interest rates. But lending tech companies like Moneyboxx Finance are also out there to cater to the underserved.
Mumbai-based Moneyboxx began its journey in 2018 as Moneyboxx Capital but started operating as an NBFC from 2019, after acquiring Dhanuka Commercial and its NBFC licence. The company soon found that the below-INR 40K loan segment for unsecured loans is well serviced by 200+ players. But the mid-market, where borrowers need unsecured loans of INR 1-10 Lakh, has a massive financing gap of INR 8 Lakh Cr. Moneyboxx addresses this huge market and focusses on areas like animal husbandry and trade-related requirements. It provides unsecured loans ranging from INR 50K to INR 3 Lakh for a tenure of 12-36 months.
As the company follows a value-based pricing approach, the interest rate varies from borrower to borrower. This is determined by a scoring model based on analytics and the nature of the business since its users rarely have bank data or credit history. Moneyboxx clocked a revenue of INR 9.6 Cr in H1 FY22 and claimed an AUM worth INR 100 Cr+.
The startup runs a phygital setup with 23 branches in five Indian states and plans to expand to 50 branches by 2022. It also aims to reach an AUM of INR 300 Cr by the year-end and INR 1,400 Cr by 2025.
Why Nestasia Made It To The List
Designing and decorating their own homes has always been an enriching experience for Anurag Agarwal and Aditi Murarka Agarwal. It made them eager to focus on the home décor space, and the husband-wife duo set up their D2C startup Nestasia in 2019.
The startup from Kolkata offers a unique range of home décor and lifestyle products, including crockery and other kitchen utilities, stationery items, garden accessories and more that touch each part of a home. It also specialises in giving a modern design tweak to traditional products and uses a wide range of materials like clay, wood, metal and marble. But unlike conventional marketplaces that connect sellers and buyers, Nestasia is a D2C business that buys products from Indian artisans, stores them in its Kolkata warehouse and sells them pan-India.
Nestasia sells more than 6,000 products across seven categories on its website and claims a customer base of 60K+. It has fulfilment centres in Kolkata and New Delhi besides the warehouse for stocking all artisanal products such as handwoven wicker baskets, carved clay pots, bowls spun out of bamboo and colourful brooms. It also offers buying guides and related content for a smooth consumer journey and claims considerable traction since the pandemic-led shift to work from home.
The company plans to enter third-party marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart and go global by 2025. Moving forward, it will go beyond the role of a product aggregator and set up a factory in West Bengal for designing and manufacturing wood and cane furniture. It will simultaneously launch a ceramic cookware range.
Why Nexprt Made It To The List
India is often projected as the next global manufacturing hub, thanks to its policy initiatives, stability and a young workforce. But the manufacturing industry is still plagued with inefficiencies and need an overhaul before foreign brands shift their manufacturing here. Keen to plug the gaps across the manufacturing ecosystem, Gurugram-based Nexprt provides in-house design and facilitates product development for global enterprises specialising in home décor.
Launched in 2020, the manufacturing enabler has two production units in Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) and offers a blend of engineering, technology and artisanal brilliance to ensure end-to-end control across production and exports. It caters to overseas manufacturers in the US, the UK and the Middle East and provides 1K+ SKUs that cover metal furniture and lamps to garden accessories, tabletops to wall décor and more.
Besides design and production, Nexprt procures raw materials, does finishing and packaging, creates catalogues and offers technology support in areas like design intelligence software, 3D printing, CNC machining and laser cutting. It also specialises in R&D to recreate Chinese and Southeast Asian products in India and helps with international sales.
Why Orai Robotics Made It To The List
With the rapid adoption of AI-ML, brands are now able to transform the customer journey into a more personalised and productive experience, thus differentiating themselves from competitors. But for an average Indian consumer, the language barrier and the use of a high-end tech-driven platform can be a turnoff. So, Bengaluru-based Orai Robotics has stepped in to disrupt conversational AI and offer more user-friendly solutions.
Launched in 2020, Orai has developed a low-code conversational AI platform that offers WhatsApp Business-integrated API for customer conversation and supports more than 100 languages for voice and text chat. It also provides CRM, ERP and database integrations for a bot-to-human handover that significantly improves customer service experience. The SaaS startup has three pricing models in place, a one-time implementation fee, a monthly subscription or usage-based charges.
Orai’s platform+solution+service module ensures that customers interact with the bot and enterprises receive real-time actionable insights. The startup has already onboarded more than 140 clients and claims an ARR of $23 Mn for FY22, with a 25% MoM revenue growth. It plans to enter the US market by 2025 and acquire 1,000+ global SMB and enterprise accounts.
Why Plaeto Made It To The List
Launched in 2020, Bengaluru-based Plaeto is a D2C brand for kids’ footwear and aims to create awareness about ‘healthy feet’ and right-fit shoes for children. The idea to build an affordable, comfortable and sustainable kids’ footwear brand took root when cofounder Ravi Kallayil worked for Nike. A 10-year-old had written to the company requesting a discount, and the letter moved him deeply. After some pondering, he decided to design affordable shoes that would be an ideal fit for Indian youngsters.
The startup offers scientifically designed shoes for kids in the UK sizes 4-12. Better still, it has gone past the traditional footwear design and came out with innovative solutions. These include FitSystem, where removing a liner from the insole will increase the shoe size by 0.5, and Plaeto365, a shoe cushion to ensure comfortable midsoles. Then there is Plaeto FitFinder, an AI-ML-powered system that helps parents find the right shoe size with the help of a picture.
Plaeto entered the market in October 2021 and currently offers 53 SKUs in the unisex category. All its products are made in-house, and the company claims to have a 50% lower carbon footprint than other shoe brands. It has recently entered the B2B2C segment, where it partners with educational institutions to sell school shoes. As of now, the company caters to 100+ B2B2C clients and clocks a 2x MoM revenue growth.
The startup plans to launch a separate product line for girls, especially for adolescents in postpuberty. It also aims to expand to Africa, the EU and the US markets by 2025.
Why Plix Life Made It To The List
The widespread consumption of sugary sodas made former Boston Analytics consultant Rishubh Satiya wonder if a healthy alternative could taste equally good. That was the beginning of Plix, a Mumbai-based startup launched in 2019. It offers a wide range of plant-based products to help with wellness, weight loss, workout supplements, women’s health and hair and skin nutrition.
As health and wellness have emerged as the new lifestyle mantra in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, its health supplements, including apple cider vinegar, ashwagandha products and antioxidants, have gained popularity. Plix procures its raw materials from six or more countries (plant-based proteins from France, cocoa from Ghana and so on) and outsources manufacturing and packaging to Pune and Ahmedabad. It has 35+ SKUs across six categories and sells pan-India via its website and Amazon India.
The startup claims an ARR of INR 100 Cr for FY22 and plans to expand its product portfolio to 85 or more across multiple categories. Although most of its products are either drinks or drink-based, it is now working on gummies and superfood powder as multivitamin substitutes. It may also enter two international markets in 2022.
Why PropReturns Made It To The List
The yellow metal is the most favoured investment channel in India. But next to that comes real estate, where most people like to put their investible surplus. Investing in properties is undoubtedly lucrative. However, there are many challenges, including the lack of a standard legal framework to safeguard investors’ interest, an appalling lack of information regarding blue-chip properties, a volatile realty market and the high brokerage charged by intermediaries when one makes a purchase.
Such things may discourage a retail investor, but there is an easy way out. Launched in 2021, Mumbai-based PropReturns has built a commercial real estate marketplace that offers adequate data about listed properties, essential for due diligence. Sellers can list their commercial properties (shops, offices, warehouses and more) that are currently on rent, and buyers can take a deep dive into property details, tenants’ background, leasing agreements, probable ROI and purchase costs. PropReturns charges a 1.5-2% commission on each purchase and mediates transactions after buyers go through manually verified data points. Buyers also get loan options from Indian banks.
Currently, the startup only lists properties in Mumbai and Delhi-NCR but plans to operate pan-India by 2025. It has more than 450 pre-leased properties in its inventory and access to 500+ commercial property owners, real estate developers and other stakeholders. PropReturns claims to cater to more than 4,000 investors, wealth managers and real estate funds keen to explore rent-generating commercial properties.
Why Skillr Made It To The List
Hiring is a critical and time-consuming task, and it has become all the more challenging in this era of great resignation. But things tend to get worse when there is a high attrition rate due to a lack of growth opportunities. Upskilling and reskilling employees can prevent it to some extent, as mastering new skills help people move forward in their careers. But there could be more complex issues involved when it comes to high employee turnover. This is where Skillr can help as it offers smart hiring solutions based on behavioural science, providing a holistic view of a candidate’s potential and accurately predicting job performance.
Launched in 2020, the Chennai firm gathers actionable data with the help of its AI-powered system that captures, analyses and predicts how people will actually perform in an organisation. The platform uses industry-benchmarked EQ and behavioural tests, rapid screening through on-demand interviews and AI-enabled recommendations to predict job performance and streamline hiring. The product is also useful post-hiring for determining employee engagement and helping with upskilling if required.
Skillr has adopted a pay-as-you-go and a subscription-based revenue model and has three pricing plans in place depending on the size of the organisation, its hiring needs and the use of a kit that includes tests and an insight-filled dashboard. With more than 50 clients in its kitty, including storied brands like Paytm, Chaayos and Leap Club, it claims an ARR of $100K in FY22. It also aims to onboard 350+ clients by 2025.
Why Snazzy Align Made It To The List
Although dental braces is not a new concept and more than 80% of Indians need them, the market for this orthodontic appliance has not seen much traction due to two reasons. First, metal braces are painful and unsightly. Second, invisible braces are expensive, costing around INR 2 Lakh or more. Ayush Pateria faced the same problem when looking for clear aligners that would not cost a fortune. But soon he realised that local dental clinics working with aligner companies charge 2-3x markup on top of the lab costs, pushing the prices north.
Determined to come up with some cost-effective offerings, Pateria and Keshav Chouksey founded Snazzy Align in 2020 as a teledentistry D2C brand and partnered with orthodontists who specialise in aligners. Here is how it works. Users must visit Snazzy’s partner clinics once (or multiple times in case of complications). Post the clinic visit, the startup discusses the next course of treatment with the specialist concerned, follows the patient’s journey through online modes and ensures timely delivery of the clear aligners. Due to its efficient procedure and asset-light model, the company has brought the price down to INR 50-60K.
Snazzy has 500 active patients across four cities (Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Mumbai) and claims an ARR of more than $2 Mn for FY22 through clear aligner sales. Since its launch, it has helped more than 1K users and plans to take the number to 1K users per month in the next few years, besides expanding pan-India.
Why SpoofSense Made It To The List
Face authentication has become an integral part of the employee and customer onboarding, especially for service aggregators and financial institutions. Although the idea of clicking a snapshot and uploading it to complete the onboarding process sounds easy, face authentication is prone to spoofing attacks by fraudsters who use a random photograph instead of the live photo required. To tackle this issue of tech fake, Bengaluru-based SpoofSense uses a state-of-the-art AI algorithm that can accurately detect spoofing attacks and verify face liveness in real-time.
Behind the scenes, the algorithm relies on multiple deep neural networks carefully architectured to provide the best prediction accuracy. The system can also detect print and digital video replays. Spoofsense provides an SDK to enterprises that can be integrated with their platforms to check image spoofing.
Why Stack Made It To The List
When it comes to financial literacy, India lags behind most countries as there are very few well-structured and easy-to-understand learning programmes here. The internet does not lack relevant content or knowledge platforms, but the information overload tends to confuse first-time investors. This is where Stack can be of immense help. Launched in 2021, the Bengaluru-based fintech firm aims to simplify the investment process by offering a customised plan, keeping in mind each user’s risk appetite and financial goals.
The company offers a globally diversified portfolio, automatically rebalanced and adjusted over time to suit the investor’s requirements. Be it an emergency corpus, a retirement fund or a tax-planning one, it customises the user’s portfolio from a diverse set of asset classes such as debt, equity, US stocks, gold and crypto while incorporating risk-adjusted returns.
An investor begins by answering a couple of questions that help assess the profile. Next, the startup’s proprietary tech Smart Stack Approach recommends several minimum-risk and maximum-profit funds based on the profile. Users can withdraw their money at any time, irrespective of the fund timeline, but it will not apply to tax-saving funds that come with a lock-in period of three years.
Stack’s services are free, but it is still working on its premium features and plans to monetise them. The company claims it has acquired more than 35K users within two months of its launch, and they have created over 100K goals with an AUM worth INR 100 Cr+. It is now looking to acquire 1 Mn+ users and work on Rules, a sub-platform that will help users invest systematically and regularly, such as investing a fixed amount on payday or depositing money to build a smaller contingency fund.
Why TradeX Made It To The List
Mention trading and people will immediately associate it with the stock market. But Gurugram-based TradeX has gone further and allows users to predict the outcomes of everyday occurrences, be it government regulation, economic/financial development, current news, movie release date or any other real-life event.
Launched in 2021, the startup operates on the cusp between trading and skill-based gaming, where retail investors can bet on whether something will happen or not by opting for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to monetise their opinions. Its key features include an android app, a password-protected account number, a sign-up bonus, real-time payments and the option to choose short-term (outcome determined in seven days) or long-term events.
Here is how event-based trading works on the platform. If a question asks ‘will it rain?’ and each option (yes and no) has a last trading value of INR 50 (the total value of every traded question is INR 100), users can bet INR 50 or more on either of these options. If their prediction tallies with the actual outcome (for instance, one clicks on yes, and it actually rains), they will win the trade value. They can also book profit margins if the option price fluctuates and is more than their bet. On TradeX, every event counts as one share and users can bet on individual events. TradeX charges a 10% transaction fee on the winning amount.
Although the platform is available pan-India, users from Odisha, Telangana, Assam, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh cannot trade on it due to government restrictions on skill/chance-based gaming. However, the company says it has more than 100K users who have traded INR 10 Cr+ and earned profits. It also claims an ARR of $100 Mn in FY22 and a 200% month-on-month revenue growth.
Why Tyke Invest Made It To The List
As the Shark Tank craze takes over India and gives people a glimpse of how private equity investment works, people’s interest in startups has piqued. But putting in one’s money is not as easy as it seems. The show’s Sharks are well-known entrepreneurs and angel investors. But for retail investors keen to fund startups, the process can be tedious, if not downright impossible. Realising this pain point, Mumbai-based fintech startup Tyke Invest aims to help small investors pump funds inside their favourite startups.
Launched in 2020, it enables users to invest as low as INR 5K via T-Safe notes, a proprietary contract between investors and startups looking to raise capital through angel or seed rounds. Simply put, an investor essentially buys CCD, CCPS, NCD or CSOP that gets converted into equity stakeholding at the time of the IPO or an M&A.
Tyke makes investing in early stage startups as easy as UPI money transfer. After signing up, a user must get an e-KYC done and accept the risks involved after going through the documents. The company also helps startups by letting them run funding campaigns on its platform or allowing them to integrate the Tyke API to run those campaigns on their apps/websites. It charges users a 2% transaction fee on all investments made on its website or Android app. As for startups, it charges INR 25K as a campaign listing fee and other value-add services such as private placements or generating due diligence reports.
The company says it has been instrumental in fundraising worth $10 Mn+ across 45+ rounds. It aims to facilitate Series A and Series B rounds and secondary sale of shares in the current calendar year. It also plans to launch its services in the EU and other Western markets in the next three years.
ZFW Dark Stores
Why ZFW Dark Stores Made It To The List
Madhav Kasturia, a foodtech enthusiast who worked in the restaurant industry for more than seven years, had a ringside view of the food delivery space, how brands tried to scale and how cloud kitchens struggled to stay sustainable. The outcome was ZFW Dark Stores, a hyperlocal fulfilment platform helping F&B companies and D2C brands scale up by leveraging its tech-enabled network of 125+ dark stores and fulfilment centres in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune.
Set up in 2020, the New Delhi-based startup works on a 25×3 model, helping brands scale to 25 fulfilment centres in 25 days and service each order in 25 minutes. In fact, brands only need to ship their inventories to ZFW’s central warehouses in the cities from where it does the last-mile delivery with its fleet. This is especially useful for companies that cannot scale up due to capital crunch, lack of resources/expertise or a limited distribution channel.
Besides offering a suite of value-added services, including order fulfilment, technology stack and inventory management, the company partners with underutilised cloud kitchens and helps them optimise idle spaces. It has adopted a revenue-sharing model for both models.
With prominent clients such as Baskin Robbins, FabBox, Vadilal and more in its kitty, ZFW claims to service more than 20K orders per month. It has an ARR of $300K for FY22 and plans to launch its operations in 10 cities in the current calendar year. By 2025, the startup aims to support 1,000+ brands via 3,000 fulfilment centres across 100 cities.
[Edited By Sanghamitra Mandal]