The Big Moves Of 2023: A Look Back At The Biggest Acquisitions In The Startup Ecosystem

The Big Moves Of 2023: A Look Back At The Biggest Acquisitions In The Startup Ecosystem


According to Inc42’s Indian Tech Startup Funding Report Q3 2023, there were 95 M&A deals till September 2023 as against 205 in the entire 2022

While funding crunch resulted in some fire sales this year, several Indian corporates also acquired startups, like Reliance Retail’s acquisition of Ed-a-Mamma, to expand their businesses

Highlighting the growing prowess of the Indian startup ecosystem, startups like Flutura, TrustCheckr, and were acquired by global giants Accenture, Truecaller, and Adobe, respectively

The Indian startup ecosystem was in the strong grip of the ongoing funding winter at the beginning of 2023. As such, it was expected that funding scarcity and a drop in valuations would lead to a sharp increase in the number of mergers and acquisitions in the Indian startup ecosystem during the year. However, as the year comes to an end, the data compiled by Inc42 presents a different picture.

Only 95 mergers and acquisitions (M&As) took place in the first three quarters of the ongoing year. This number is almost half of the 205 M&As that took place in 2022, which was a growth from 120 such deals in 2021. According to Inc42’s Indian Tech Startup Funding Report Q3 2023, the number of M&A deals stood at 35, 33 and 27 in Q1, Q2, and Q3, respectively, this year. 

While the funding crunch resulted in some fire sales this year, like Aurum PropTech’s acquisition of Nestaway, several Indian corporates also acquired startups to expand their businesses, like Reliance Retail’s acquisition of Alia Bhatt’s Ed-a-Mamma and Saregama’s acquisition of Pocket Aces. 

Besides, many new-age tech companies like Swiggy and RateGain also went shopping this year to further expand their business. The icing on the cake was the acquisition of Indian startups by international companies, highlighting the growing prowess of the Indian startup ecosystem. Startups like Flutura, TrustCheckr, and were acquired by global corporates Accenture, Truecaller, and Adobe, respectively, this year. 

Overall, ecommerce, enterprise tech, fintech and edtech were among the top sectors in terms of M&A deals in the first three quarters of 2023. The minimum deal amount for the year stood $7.5 Mn, while the highest went up to $67 Mn. 

As 2023 approaches its end, let’s take a look at some of the major startup acquisitions this year.

Top Startup Acquisitions Of 2023

CarTrade Snaps Up OLX India’s Business

Auto marketplace CarTrade acquired Sobek Auto India Private Limited, the parent company of OLX’s India business, for $67 Mn (INR 535.54 Cr) in August this year. OLX’s India business comprised its classifieds platform and consumer-to-business (C2B) operations of auto transaction business.

At the time of acquisition, CarTrade, which competes with the likes of Spinny and Cars24, said Sobek Auto would bring with it 68 Mn average monthly visitors and 32 Mn product listings annually. CarTrade’s employee count crossed the 4,000 mark post the acquisition.

However, months after the acquisition, CarTrade shut down the C2B business of Sobek Auto, citing its unit economic challenges.

CarTrade said shutting down the C2B business would result in a reduction in its headcount but Sobek will continue to grow its classified business, which includes both auto and non-auto verticals. 

CarTrade reported a 132% year-on-year rise in its consolidated net profit to INR 12.96 Cr in the September quarter of the financial year 2023-24 (FY24).

Reliance Retail Expands Portfolio With Acquisition Of Ed-a-Mamma 

Isha Ambani-led Reliance Retail acquired a majority stake in Bollywood actor Alia Bhatt’s children’s wear brand Ed-a-Mamma to expand its portfolio.

The startup, launched in 2020, is a D2C kids and maternity wear brand that sells its products through its own website, ecommerce platforms, and retail chains like Lifestyle and Shoppers’ Stop.

Without disclosing the financial details of the deal, the retail vertical of Reliance Industries Ltd said it acquired a 51% stake in Ed-a-Mamma. Media reports stated that the acquisition amount ranged between INR 300 Cr and INR 350 Cr

In a statement, Reliance Retail said it was looking to leverage the management strength of its subsidiary Reliance Brands to spearhead Ed-a-Mamma’s business. 

2023 In Review: Top Acquisitions In The Indian Startup Ecosystem

Swiggy Enters Food, Grocery Retail Market With LYNK Logistics’ Acquisition

Swiggy forayed into the food and grocery retail market by acquiring FMCG retail distribution company LYNK Logistics. While the foodtech giant did not disclose the financial details, reports pegged the deal at $39 Mn.

Founded in 2015 by Abinav Raja and Shekhar Bhende, LYNK enables leading FMCG brands to grow their retail presence through its network of 1,00,000+ retail stores across the top eight cities of India.

It leverages a proprietary, integrated technology platform to manage retail distribution throughout the supply chain, including warehousing, inventory management and logistics operations. It counts marquee names like Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Tata, PepsiCo, and Britannia among its clients.

Led by cofounder and chief executive officer Shekhar Bhende, LYNK continues to operate as an independent entity even after the acquisition. 

Music Production Giant Saregama Picks Stake In Pocket Aces 

Music-producing major Saregama acquired a 51.82% stake in digital entertainment startup Pocket Aces for $21 Mn (INR 174 Cr) at a valuation of $40 Mn in September. At the time of the acquisition, Saregama also committed an additional investment of INR 15 Cr ($1.8 Mn) in the startup. 

Saregama also said it planned to take its stake in the digital content startup to 92.61% over the next 18 months. It said the additional 40.79% stake acquisition would be based on the adjusted value of Saregama’s holdings or the enterprise value of Pocket Aces, whichever is higher

Launched in 2013 by Aditi Shrivastava, Ashwin Suresh and Anirudh Pandita, Pocket Aces is a digital content creator and publisher behind popular channels FilterCopy, Nutshell, and Gobble. Since inception, it claims to have created over 3,000 content pieces across formats such as — web series, sketches, music videos, and reels.

Pocket Aces also operates in the talent management segment through Clout. It manages over 100 digital influencers, while its long-form studio, Dice Media, produces youth-centric web series available on OTT platforms like Netflix, Hotstar, and Amazon.

According to Saregama’s stock exchange filings, Pocket Aces reported a 34% jump in revenue in FY23 to INR 104 Cr. 

RateGain Acquires Adara To Consolidate Position

Listed traveltech SaaS company RateGain announced the acquisition of US-based data exchange platform Adara for $16.1 Mn (INR 134 Cr) in January 2023. The deal was aimed at leveraging synergies with Adara’s tech stack and strengthening RateGain’s position as a viable tool for its clients’ commercial teams. 

Additionally, the acquisition also opened the door for the listed new-age tech company to access more than 50 travel marketing organisations in the US.

At the time of the deal, the consolidated entity cumulatively managed 30 Bn data points and processed more than 200 Bn ARI (availability, rates, and inventory) updates. The two companies together also counted more than 700 partners across 100+ countries under their belt. 

Founded in 2009 by Charles Mi, Adara is a data collection and management platform that offers business intelligence solutions such as AI-enabled data service to travel and hospitality companies for optimal consumer engagement.

Back then, Adara was said to deploy AI to collate 24 Bn data elements from across 130 countries, which, in turn, helps enterprises spur engagement with consumers and increase profitability.

Lendingkart Bags Upwards Fintech 

Fintech giant Lendingkart acquired digital lendingtech platform Upwards in February 2023 in a deal pegged between INR 100 Cr and INR 120 Cr. 

The acquisition enabled Upwards to access Lendingkart’s credit, capital and distribution capability to further deepen its presence across the country. 

Additionally, the acquisition paved the way for Lendingkart to bolster its offerings, especially in the SMB segment, by leveraging Upwards’ tech stack. Lendingkart also received access to the startup’s credit underwriting engine to streamline the overall user experience and the lifecycle of loan disbursement. 

Upwards continues to operate as an independent entity led by its existing leadership. 

Founded in 2014 by Harshvardhan Lunia, Lendingkart offers loans to SMBs and MSMEs. Backed by Fullerton Financial Holding, Bertelsmann and Mayfield India, the startup claims to have disbursed more than $1 Bn worth of loans since its inception.

On the other hand, Upwards, launched in 2017 by Abhishek Soni and Nimesh Verma, is a lendingtech platform that offers personal loans to salaried professionals and operates a proprietary underwriting engine that analyses more than 500 data points to ascertain the creditworthiness of a user. 

The Mumbai-based startup is backed by India Quotient, Mayfield, among others, and claims to have disbursed loans worth more than INR 500 Cr across 200+ cities, since inception. 

ReadyAssist Snaps Speedforce 

Roadside assistance startup ReadyAssist acquired two-wheeler servicing chain SpeedForce for a sum of $10 Mn in a cash and stock deal. 

At the time of the transaction, SpeedForce said the deal would enable the consolidated entity to set up more than 1,000 workshops in 2024, and an additional 4,000 outlets in the next five years.

SpeedForce was incorporated in 2012 by Kapil Bhindi, Deepen Barai and Ashok Shah. Following a multi-brand two-wheeler servicing franchise model, SpeedForce offers roadside assistance to riders, including pick up and drop facility, on-road breakdown support, insurance support, annual maintenance contracts, warranty program on spare parts, and lubricants, among others. 

Meanwhile, founded in 2018 by Vimal Singh SV, ReadyAssist offers roadside support to vehicle owners. Working in liaison with service providers, the startup offers services such as on-road repair, battery jumpstart, fuel delivery, key unlocking facilities, towing, flat tire repair and other allied services. It also offers doorstep full-bike service.

The deal was announced two months after ReadyAssist secured $5 Mn in a pre-Series A funding round led by Howen International Fund.

OfBusiness Ventures Into Food Processing By Acquiring Koeleman India 

To venture into the food processing sector, B2B marketplace OfBusiness acquired 100% stake in Koeleman India, a subsidiary of Netherlands-based Koeleman Foods International, in April for $10 Mn. 

Bengaluru-based Koeleman India processes fruits and vegetables and supplies them to major food corporations in the US, Europe, and Australia.

Through this acquisition, OfBusiness gained access to the food processing facility and export markets of Koeleman. 

Founded in 2016 by Asish Mohapatra, Ruchi Kalra, Vasant Sridhar, Bhuvan Gupta and Nitin Jain, OfBusiness sources raw materials from SMBs and MSMEs. The startup also provides cash-flow-based financing to SMEs through its financial arm Oxyzo, which became a unicorn in March 2022.

OfBusiness reported a 130% increase in its FY23 net profit to INR 463.2 Cr, while operating revenue zoomed 115% to INR 15,342.5 Cr.

Razorpay Buys B2B Digital Billing Startup BillMe 

In a bid to strengthen its omnichannel play, fintech unicorn Razorpay bought paperless billing solutions provider BillMe for an undisclosed amount in September. At the time, Razorpay said the move would help it engage more efficiently with end customers.

Established in 2018 by Jai Hemrajani, Rupam Jain and Kuber Pritmani, BillMe claims to have catered to over 4,000 businesses to date. Currently, the startup manages over 15,000 retail points of sale. It counts the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King, Decathlon, Baggit, Relaxo Footwear, and Cinepolis as its customers.

Though the two sides did not disclose the financials of the deal, the acquisition amount was estimated to be around $10 Mn.  

Razorpay said that the acquisition would help it serve its aim of converting bills into multidimensional tools for merchants to understand, engage, and target their customers much more effectively.

Fintech Startup Siply Acquires Chit Fund App myPaisaa 

In February, Bengaluru-based fintech startup Siply announced the acquisition of chit fund app myPaisaa for $7.5 Mn. The acquisition was aimed at offering customers innovative, fully digital, sachet financial services, all while driving growth and financial inclusion. 

Founded in 2020 by Ravindranath Kamma & Veera Praveen Reddy, myPaisaa is a regulated digital chit-fund application, which distributes chits licenced by the Government of India and the Registrar of Chit Funds. The app allows users to save through its multiple investment plans.

On the other hand, Simply, launched in 2020 by Sousthav Chakrabarty and Anil Bhat, is a micro-savings platform, which allows people to invest in mutual funds, gold, and other assets for as little as INR 1. The startup started operating with three centres and now claims to have 14 branches in three states.

Back then, the startup had plans to launch 1,000 branches across 115 cities in India over the next three years.

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