Tech & Startup Newsmakers Of 2022: The Founders & Leaders Behind The Biggest Stories Of The Year

Tech & Startup Newsmakers Of 2022: The Founders & Leaders Behind The Biggest Stories Of The Year


It’s been a year full of controversies, public spats, key policy changes and of course major international tech developments that have trickled down to the Indian ecosystem

Of course, the biggest story this year has been around the 18K layoffs in the startup ecosystem, but on the positive side, India saw the launch of 5G, a big push for EVs and domestic manufacturing

From Ashneer Grover to Bhavish Aggarwal to the founders of Open and publicly listed Delhivery - here are the founders, leaders, and investors who became the talk of town in 2022

It’s been a year full of controversies, public spats, key policy changes and of course major international tech developments that have trickled down to the Indian ecosystem.

If 2022 began with some degree of optimism after record-breaking funding in 2021, it did not take much long for it to dissipate. From the BharatPe saga that broke out in the beginning of the year to the total breakdown at Zilingo — Indian startups and investors faced unprecedented questions around corporate governance and due diligence.

Download Annual Funding Report 2022

Amid the global macroeconomic slowdown, cost-cutting took centre stage and the IPO mania of 2021 took a backseat. While most companies postponed their IPOs, Delhivery and Tracxn zagged and went for public listings.

Of course, the biggest story this year has been around the 18K layoffs in the startup ecosystem, but on the positive side, India can count on the launch of 5G, the massive surge in EV sales and streamlining of rules around digital lending.

As we recount the major developments of 2022, here are the tech icons, business leaders, startup founders and investors who became the talk of town.

Akash Ambani – The Reliance Scion Takes Over

It was the dawn of a new leadership era at Reliance Jio in 2022 as Akash Ambani, the non-executive director of RIL, and Mukesh Ambani’s son took over as the chairman of Reliance Jio Infocomm’s board of directors.

Even as Mukesh Ambani continues to helm the umbrella company Reliance Jio Platforms, Akash will be leading Jio into the 5G era, six years after the company changed the Indian internet landscape with its affordable 4G services.

Indeed, 5G will be the next battleground for telcos in India with Airtel also launching its next-gen cellular services alongside Jio. Akash will be leading Jio’s 5G-powered initiatives across education, healthcare, agriculture, industry 4.0, and Internet of Things (IoT) sectors which is seen as the next defining chapter at Reliance in 2023.

Anish Achutan, Mabel Chacko, Ajeesh Achutan, Deena Jacob – Leading India’s 100th Unicorn

With 84 unicorn startups in India at the end of 2021, the biggest question on everyone’s minds was which will be the 100th unicorn?

As it turned out, we had to wait almost half the year to find out — Bengaluru-based neobank Open became India’s 100th unicorn after raising $50 Mn from IIFL in May and since then the startup has strengthened not only its business operations across India and Southeast Asia, but also achieved key milestones that hold it in good stead for 2023 and beyond.

From producing its first unicorn in the form of InMobi in 2011 to hitting the century of unicorns in India by 2022, it has been a long and eventful journey for the Indian startup ecosystem. Open’s entry was widely celebrated by the Indian government as well as startup ecosystem stakeholders, which widened the spotlight on its operation

Founded in 2017 by Anish Achuthan, Ajeesh Achuthan, Mabel Chacko, and Deena Jacob, Open offers business banking, payments and expense management services to SMBs.

In the year, it also received the in-principle approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for a payment aggregator gateway (PA/PG) licence, becoming the first neobank to get this licence. It also got the RBI’s nod for cross-border payments after completing the test phase of the second cohort under RBI’s regulatory sandbox.

Ankiti Bose – From Highs To Lows

When the year began, Singapore-HQ’d fashion tech startup Zilingo was on the verge of joining the unicorn club. With a valuation of $970 Mn in January 2022, everyone expected the Ankiti Bose-led startup to hit the $1 Bn mark with its next round.

As it turned out, Zilingo and its (now ousted) CEO and cofounder Bose’s story came undone amid a slew of controversies, allegations of mismanagement, internal tussles and boardroom shenanigans.

Inc42 dove deep into the Zilingo saga to see what exactly happened and how the disagreements between founders Bose and Dhruv Kapoor led to the current state.

First, Bose resigned from the board followed by Sequoia’s Shailendra Singh and then the controversy snowballed into mudslinging and allegations about harassment and witchhunts.  All in all, the future of Zilingo still remains uncertain.

Bose was eventually ousted from the company completely for alleged ‘insubordination’. As of now, the startup is facing heat from creditors, employees leaving the company and an uncertain future of its hanging M&A plan. Even though Bose tried to hold on to the company by patching things with Kapoor and creating a management buyout plan, things are still in limbo for the once-venerated company.

As per sources close to the former CEO, Bose is working on launching a new venture after the Zilingo stint. However, there’s still the matter of potential legal action against Zilingo board, which had been hinted

Ashneer Grover – Outspoken & Ousted

There’s very little that Ashneer Grover did in 2022 that did not make the headlines. The limelight has been around the mercurial entrepreneur ever since his controversial remarks on Shark Tank India at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022.

But that would be overshadowed by the massive fallout at fintech unicorn BharatPe. The controversies began when an expletive-laden conversation involving Grover and a Kotak Mahindra employee was leaked on Twitter in late 2021.

In January, Grover announced that he was going on a voluntary leave of absence, but this was nothing but window dressing given the volume of allegations that have followed, and months of mudslinging.

An internal review conducted by Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) is said to have revealed impropriety including embezzlement involving Grover and his wife Madhuri Jain Grover, who was also head of controls at BharatPe. This led to Jain Grover being dismissed by the company.

Soon after, Ashneer’s employment at BharatPe was also terminated and now, the fintech unicorn followed up a civil suit against its former managing director (MD) Ashneer, Jain Grover, and his family members.

Alleging misappropriation of funds. BharatPe has now sought INR 88.7 Cr in damages from the Grovers, in a case that could actually have deep ramifications on one of the most high-profile entrepreneurs and angel investors in India.

After his dismissal from BharatPe, Ashneer and his wife launched a new company called ‘Third Unicorn Private Limited’, a reference to Ashneer’s stints at Grofers (Blinkit) and BharatPe. It must be noted that, however, Ashneer quit Grofers in 2017, four years before Grofers entered the unicorn club.

Amid all this, Ashneer Grover also released a book called ‘Doglapan’ titled after one of his catchphrases from his time at Shark Tank India. The book has come under criticism but largely because of Ashneer’s no-holds-barred approach and outspoken views on building startups.

Interestingly, Ashneer does not feature in the promos for Shark Tank India’s second season, prompting speculation that he has been dropped as an investor amid investigations and potential legal action.

Bhavish Aggarwal – Fighting Fires & Rivals

As one of the most high profile entrepreneurs in India, Bhavish Aggarwal is never far from the limelight, but in 2022, the Ola and Ola Electric founder took on all and sundry as the company made a big splash in the EV market, even as the mobility business remained muted.

In particular, Aggarwal’s ‘Petrol media’ comments against veteran auto journalist Hormazd Sorabjee seemed to have ruffled feathers across the automotive industry. And his abrasive comments about rivals such as Hero and other traditional companies only added fuel to the fire.

Speaking of, Ola Electric was among a slew of EV makers who had to deal with fires and allegations of poor safety practices which unfortunately also led to a few casualties. Even as these safety issues were addressed by government interventions and public outcry, Ola Electric laid out the roadmap for its future products, including an electric car and commercial EVs.

On the business front, Aggarwal came under fire after reports about the toxic work culture at both the companies, particularly related to Aggarwal’s management style. The company also saw a slew of exits of key business heads in the year, including in the Ola Cars marketplace vertical.

Acquiring brother Ankush Aggarwal’s startup Avail Finance and naming Ankush as the head of Ola Financial did not ease things as more questions were raised about favouritism and improper corporate governance.

Ola’s mobility business had already taken a massive hit during the pandemic years, and the company has been struggling to revive itself in the aftermath.

Towards the end of the year, reports of Ola’s merger with Uber in India came up, which were swiftly denied by both companies. But in 2023, even as Ola Electric remains Aggarwal’s top priority, the mobility business will need a major boost to overcome losses. Will Aggarwal be able to steer both ships in the right direction?

Changpeng Zhao (CZ) – Caught In Crypto Storm

It was not a good year for crypto startups — the collapse of FTX, Terra-Luna and other altcoins left investors with a bad taste. Indeed, it was a year where the crypto ecosystem had to rework on legitimising itself after these issues.

In India, the crypto taxation was the biggest story and it drew a range of responses, including from Binance founder Changpeng Zhao, who claimed the high 30% tax would effectively kill crypto innovation and startups in the country.

Further, blaming the high crypto tax, Zhao also said that the Indian market was not a viable proposition for global players in 2022.

Then there was the spat between Zhao and WazirX cofounder Nischal Shetty, soon after an ED probe into WazirX. Ironically, CZ then proceeded to distance Binance from WazirX, the startup it had claimed to have acquired in 2019. According to Zhao, Binance did not have control on operations including “user sign-up, KYC, trading and initiating withdrawals”, which were the points being investigated by ED.

That was not the last of the controversies involving CZ, as he was also said to be in discussions with FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried to revive the exchange before its collapse and subsequent arrest by US authorities for alleged embezzlement of funds.

Elon Musk – The New King Of Twitter

Elon Musk’s $44 Bn Twitter deal was the talk of the year — after months of drama, the Tesla and SpaceX founder took over Twitter and immediately made a slew of changes to turn around the social media giant’s losses and financial state.

Besides layoffs In the US, including CEO Parag Agrawal, Musk’s plans involved halving the India team with nearly 150 employees from the 300-member team dismissed.

Of course, Musk’s interventions and the dismissals of key members have led to criticism from Twitter’s advertisers as well as members of the public. But Musk is under immense pressure to deliver results as he sold Tesla stock worth more than $8 Bn to finance the Twitter deal.

Soon after this Tesla’s stock price came crashing down. The EV giant saw its stock price plummet by 70% in 2022, worse than Meta, Amazon and Netflix. And now Musk has a huge task ahead of him to turn things around — not just as Twitter but also at Tesla, perhaps his most high-profile company.

While Tesla was said to be close to launching in India last year, having hired key personnel to lead the market, there have been no signs of an actual launch. Instead, Musk continued to demand EV import duty cuts from India to bring his electric cars to the market. In response, the company was told to manufacture in India if it hopes to avail subsidies.

Of course, Musk remained steadfast to his claims from the past that Tesla will not manufacture in India if it’s not allowed to sell cars with reduced import duties. Something of a chicken and egg problem. Will a solution be found in 2023?

Narendra Modi – A Champion Of Startups

While Indian startups have been around well before January 16, 2016, the announcement of Startup India on that day has changed the face of the Indian tech ecosystem. And this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi harked back to that moment by announcing January 16 as the National Startup Day in India.

Besides this, PM Modi also chose to highlight the role of Indian technology and startups while addressing the G20 as India took over the presidency of the group. Further, central government initiatives such as the 5G spectrum auction, focus on biotech, electric vehicle policies and subsidies for makers and consumers, boost for spacetech and drone startups have set the stage for the future of Indian tech.

Neha Singh, Abhishek Goyal – On Track After IPO

The other major company that hit the public markets was business intelligence firm Tracxn.

Founded in 2013 by venture capitalists Abhishek Goyal and Neha Singh, Tracxn went public in October and saw positive response from investors. The shares listed at INR 83 apiece on the BSE at a premium of 3.75%.

The public listing saw exits from early investors Accel, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, however it is not known just how many shares they had offloaded and what kind of returns they made from the IPO.

Once again, the Tracxn listing drew plaudits coming as it did amid challenging stock market conditions. Last month, the company reported profits in the first quarter post the IPO, doubling its profits from the previous quarter.

Nirmala Sitharaman – Revamping Fintech, Cryptos

As usual, the year began with plenty of expectations from the startup ecosystem and India Inc, vis-a-vis the Union Budget presented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Many called it the ‘Budget For Digital India’ thanks to the slew of proposals and announcements that will open up opportunities for startups, including the 30% crypto tax, extension of the startup tax holiday scheme, digital rupee announcements and the big push for financial inclusion.

The year also saw the rollout of new digital lending guidelines for RBI regulated entities, which had been on the finance ministry’s agenda for the past couple of years.

As India assumed the presidency of G20 in the second half of the year, Sitharaman stated that India will push for cooperation with other economies for global crypto rules that can introduce regulations for the hitherto unregulated sector.

Sitharaman’s roles as the finance minister will remain crucial in the next few years as the Indian fintech ecosystem matures, with broader regulations for crypto, digital rupee and DeFi regulations expected in 2023.

Parag Agarwal – The CEO That Never Was

In what was the shortest tenure as a Twitter CEO, Parag Agarwal was dismissed soon after the Elon Musk takeover. Agarwal had led Twitter through some of the most challenging times with the proposed Musk bid and then plenty of questions around bots, fake engagement and content moderation.

However, he was removed as Twitter CEO days after Musk’s takeover, and less than a year after he was elevated to the post. Reports suggest that Agarwal got a $42 Mn payout as part of the severance package, however this has not been verified. What we know for a fact is that 2023 will see Agarwal start a new innings outside Twitter.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar – The Face Of Tech Policies

In 2022, Rajeev Chandrasekhar became the de facto face of India’s many tech policies and the government’s efforts to rein in tech giants such as Amazon, Twitter, Google and others.

The union minister for state for electronics and IT was a key figure in the backdrop as India released a draft of The Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022, rolled out new rules for VPN service providers in India and made key amendments to IT intermediary guidelines

Besides this, Chandrasekhar’s tough stance in the public towards big tech companies including Twitter and others in the Indian market also brought him into the limelight in 2022. Given that a lot of these rules and laws will continue to have an impact on companies in 2023, we expect Chandrasekhar to be more prominent than ever in this regard.

Sahil Barua, Suraj Saharan, Kapil Bharati – Delivering Mega Returns

When 2021 was winding down, all eyes were on how more tech startups would hit the pubic markets. As it turned out, only three new-age tech companies actually went through with their IPO plans.

Delhivery’s public listing grabbed a lot of headlines as it came amid adverse market conditions and a bloodbath in the stock markets. Even as listed companies suffered erosion of market cap and value, Delhivery was optimistic. Naturally, there was a lot of pressure on Sahil Barua, Suraj Saharan and Kapil Bharati, three of the original five cofounders of Delhivery.

The stock listed at INR 493 per share, 1.2% higher than the issue price and closed its first day at a 9% premium. The listing delivered 1.5X returns to SoftBank and 139X returns to Times Internet. The former only offloaded part of its shares in the company.

A few weeks after listing though, headwinds in the ecommerce industry and slowdown in consumer spending meant Delhivery’s stock nosedived, hitting an all-time low on November 21.

What remains to be seen is how quickly the market will recover in 2023. Ecommerce growth was tepid in 2022, this could be put down to inflationary pressures, the Ukraine-Russia war in Europe and global fiscal policies that have impacted trade. Delhivery and its founders would be looking to move quickly on the recovery path as soon as there are signs of revival in 2023.

Sandeep Nailwal – Putting India On The Global Web3 Map

As one of the most active angel investors in India and around the world, Sandeep Nailwal is not only leading Polygon but also driving the Web3 revolution globally.

In the year, Polygon’s market cap hit the $7 Bn mark and even amid the bloodbath in the cryptocurrency market, Polygon bucked the trend and continued to show growth.

More than anything, Polygon and Nailwal have looked to drive the Web3 revolution by tie-ups with industry majors such as Flipkart for Web3 R&D centres in India and joining the Microsoft-backed Ethereum Climate Platform at COP27 to mitigate the impact of cryptocurrency on climate change.

There’s little doubt that Polygon is the poster child for Web3 in India but given the FTX debacle and the crash of several other altcoins, Nailwal and Polygon have a lot of road to cover to bring Web3 to the fore in 2023.

Sanjeev Bikhchandani – The Rational Voice Of Indian Startups

Having founded Info Edge 27 years ago, Sanjeev Bikhchandani has seen every stage of the Indian tech revolution, even before the startup rush. So it’s no surprise that the Info Edge founder and vice chairman has a measured opinion on most of the things happening in the tech world.

In the beginning of the year with a lot of focus on corporate governance and due diligence, Bikhchandani took inspiration from a Sequoia India post on corporate governance to delve into his views.

From “Good governance begins in the founder’s head” to  “Always remember your independent directors and auditors are there to save you from yourselves” — Bikhchandani’s tweet thread is a gold mine on how to manage this aspect.

The Info Edge founder had similar views on founders going for secondary share sales to generate personal wealth. And also said he was in no hurry to offload more of Info Edge’s stake in Zomato and Policybazaar even as both companies hit their lock-in expiries this year.

Further, Info Edge’s investments in edtech startups during a slow year went against the grain of the slowdown in edtech and caution among investors. Perhaps 2023 will reveal the rationale behind these contrarian bets.

Shailendra Singh – Caught In Controversies


One of the major themes of 2022 has been the focus on due diligence, corporate governance and investor-founder relationships. And the spotlight was glaring on Sequoia Capital India managing director Shailendra Singh after the problems at Zilingo.

It started with Zilingo cofounder Ankiti Bose resigning as CEO of the company and then alleging a witch-hunt and harassment by the board, which dragged Sequoia’s Singh into the frame and led to a complete breakdown at the Singapore-based fashion tech startup.

After months of allegations, Zilingo’s current status is unclear and Singh also resigned from the Zilingo board following Bose’s exit.

Beyond Zilingo, Sequoia India was hit by various allegations and questions over lack of due diligence in the case of BharatPe, while other irregularities at Sequoia-backed Trell also made life difficult for one of the biggest VCs in the world.

On the other hand, even though startup funding saw a big drop in 2022, Sequoia India and Sequoia Southeast Asia raised a $2.85 Bn across a set of funds, which is said to be the largest of its kind for India and SEA.

Surprisingly, Sequoia India was sued by former general counsel Sandeep Kapoor for alleged defamation after comments in relation to Kapoor’s new firm Algo Legal. The case was then withdrawn, but this was definitely a year that Sequoia would want to put behind itself as soon as possible.

Sundar Pichai – Indian Tech’s Global Poster Boy


Even as Sundar Pichai continues to lead Alphabet and Google through one of its most tumultuous years in the US in recent memory, the CEO found plenty of praise and plaudits for Google’s focus on India.

Not only did Pichai receive the Padma Bhushan award from the Indian ambassador to the US last month, he was also in India for a short visit during the Google For India event in December, where he discussed Google’s plans for the country with PM Narendra Modi.

Through the course of the year, Google sharpened its India focus with the launch of Youtube Courses, and announced new licensing deals for publishers. Pichai also said the tech giant is committed to making hardware and software in India for the global market, including Google Pixel smartphone manufacturing in India.

Pichai’s tenure as Alphabet CEO has led to plenty of focus on AI. Google announced tie-ups with Indian universities and organisations for new AI-centric projects aimed at improving inclusion and reducing bias.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma – Feeling The Pressure 

When it comes to the stock market, Paytm had a year to forget. After hitting the all-time high of INR 1,961.05 on November 18 2021, Paytm’s share price plummeted to INR 476 last Friday (December 23), a whopping 75% decline in 13 months.

Naturally, founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma has been under immense pressure to explain not only the pricing of the IPO, but also Paytm’s valuation target, which many claimed was too rich.

While Sharma had earlier stated that he would not be selling his shares in the company till it hits profitability, Paytm suffered another setback with the RBI embargo on Paytm Payments Bank, which has impacted growth.

In August, concerns around Sharma’s leadership ability abounded and there was a vote of confidence by shareholders over whether he should continue in the CEO post. Sharma won the vote but it has not been a great year for Paytm and in 2023, one would hope that the company inches closer to the breakeven mark that it has been promising for several quarters.

Download Annual Funding Report 2022
Correction Note | March 07, 2023; 5:30 PM
  • We have made changes in the section pertaining to Sequoia’s Shailendra Singh to more accurately reflect the events of the past year
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