Indian startups are under tremendous pressure, but their innovation streak continues to disrupt existing business models
Inc42’s 37th edition of 30 Startups to Watch has listed early stage businesses from enterprisetech, ecommerce, fintech, Web3, EV, deeptech and other sunrise sectors
The dominance of B2B and enterprise tech startups indicates not only engineering excellence but also a growing emphasis on innovation and automation
Are we facing a lost generation of startup businesses? There is no denying that Indian startups have experienced turbulence in the past year and a half. No easy money is sloshing around to fund mundane or moonshot projects as investors are becoming more profit-conscious and risk-averse. Business shutdowns are hitting entrepreneurs hard as founders routinely take to social platforms to write goodbye posts. And thousands of startup employees are at risk as pink slips flood the ecosystem.
But the question is: Will this ongoing funding winter and operational strife eventually impact the growth trajectory?
Overall, there has been a lack of support for first-time business owners and a lack of growth funding. And it has been a do-or-die situation for the young businesses we cover every month under 30 Startups. Not surprisingly, they wanted a month to return to the drawing board, rework their strategies and ramp up their investment returns before beginning a new financial year with sustainable business goals.
So, we quietly put away the March list and waited until startups were ready to discuss their business, and growth plans again.
Now that we are back with our data analytics and observations, a couple of trends are surfacing.
To begin with, the ecosystem is constantly evolving, throwing open a great many opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. Despite the slowdown, a handful of startups are marrying B2B and B2C trends with best-in-breed technology solutions to find their business sweet spots and disrupt incumbents.
Earlier this year, we looked at the startups that sailed through the dystopian scenario and learnt to be lean and self-reliant. In fact, the February edition of Inc42’s 30 Startups to Watch shone a light on the new-age businesses that reimagined traditional sectors and business models.
So, when we started to handpick the April list (published in May 2023), were we looking for the ‘next big thing’ that might have suddenly turned up?
Clearly not, because big things take time to happen. Think of generative AI and all the buzz it is creating just now. ChatGPT is not the outcome of a light bulb moment as many would like to believe but has undergone years of testing, arguably since ELIZA, the chatbot, was developed at MIT in 1966.
Therefore, at the shortlisting stage, we had a single focus. We looked for startups operating across mainstream sectors but doing things differently.
It may sound cliché, but numbers show that enterprise tech, ecommerce and fintech topped the startup lists in 2022 and 2023 (to date) in terms of popularity, funding and growth. Their continued success is a testament to the vibrancy of these sectors and makes it imperative to find out what these startups are doing right.
30 Startups To Watch: April 2023
Apart from a deep dive into the top three segments, the 37th edition of our 30 Startups to Watch column explored the next-best performers in the Web3, edtech and EV space despite their uneven growth graphs. Startups in the sunrise sectors, such as drone tech, climate tech and deeptech, also made the cut.
As many as 10 startups are in the enterprise tech space, followed by three each in the ecommerce and fintech sectors. We have also picked two startups each from Web3, EV, cleantech, edtech and HR tech sectors and one each from deeptech, drone services, social media and healthtech.
More interestingly, 16 out of the 30 startups listed this time operate in the B2B space; six have B2B2C models, and just eight startups are in the B2C segment.
This wave of B2B and enterprise tech dominance indicates engineering excellence and a growing emphasis on innovation and automation, the eventual outcome of Industry 4.0. Such value propositions will also ensure better exit opportunities and more focus on the ‘next big thing’ – brilliant ideas that must be nurtured from the beginning.
Check out the 37th edition of the 30 Startups To Watch list by Inc42.
Editor’s Note: The list below is not meant to be a ranking of any kind. We have listed the startups in alphabetical order.
LAS To Empower Retail Investors
Many Indian retail investors save up to 30% of their monthly income to put their money in the stock market. But when the need for cash arises, most small investors are compelled to sell in a hurry and fail to earn their desired returns.
Bengaluru-based lending tech startup 50Fin has set up a credit platform with a LAS (loans against securities) option to solve this liquidity issue.
Of course, banks provide these loans, but legacy players typically prioritise larger portfolios. In contrast, 50Fin offers small loans starting from INR 25K, with an interest rate of 12% per annum or 1% per month (for a 12-month tenure). The maximum loan-to-value is 55% of the entire portfolio on the application date. The tenure is flexible, meaning one can close the loan anytime without a pre-closure fee. But the assets marked lien cannot be released before the loan closure.
The startup says a loan approval takes just seven minutes, requires zero documentation and CIBIL check, and the loan gets disbursed in two hours. Due diligence is solely done on the credibility of the applicant’s portfolio.
50Fin has partnered with Bajaj Finserv and Chola Mandalam for loan disbursals. It earns a commission on each transaction, but more revenue comes from processing fees and API integrations for wealth tech companies, brokers and AMCs. Although launched in 2022, the startup claims more than 5K early signups and is looking to disburse INR 100 Cr worth of loans by March 2024.
Building Smart, Affordable EVs For Bharat
India’s EV market is estimated to hit $114 Bn by 2029 from $3.2 Bn in 2022. Contributing to this growth is a host of homegrown players making smart but pocket-friendly electric vehicles. One such company is Accelero, building affordable e-bikes and retrofitted engines.
The New Delhi-based EV startup commercially launched its product line in 2019. Its flagships are two heavy-duty e-bikes – eBik Speed (for daily use) and eBik Cargo (for deliveries) – with a maximum speed of 25 km/hour and up to 60 km coverage in a single charge.
Accelero’s USP is eBik Smart, a conversion kit turning traditional bikes into EVs. The kit includes an integration device, a battery box, a throttle, a pedal assist, a hub, freewheel and chain, a charger and other fitments. These ‘converted’ bikes can peak up to 25 km per hour, cover 75 km on a full charge and take under five hours to juice up the battery.
The startup has manufacturing in a Delhi unit. While the e-bikes are sold pan-India via its website, Accelero offers at-home repair and maintenance services for as little as INR 250.
Currently, it is working on two more models, increasing production capacity and building the sales and marketing teams to target B2B customers by 2024. Its long-term goal is to create an e-mobility ecosystem for 138 Mn Indians who use non-motorised transportation (walking and biking).
AI Health Highway
A Smart Stethoscope For Accurate Diagnosis
The efficacy of auscultation, a diagnostic procedure where a stethoscope is used to listen to a patient’s heartbeats, lung functions, or other body sounds, largely depends on a physician’s expertise. However, the doctor-patient ratio in India stood at 1:834 in 2022, according to a government disclosure in Rajya Sabha, which means foolproof diagnoses by medical experts may not happen every time.
Aware of the ground realities, Dr Satish S Jeevannavar and Dr Radhakrishna Jamadagni, friends from their MBBS days, set up AI Health Highway in 2018 to leverage smart medical devices for health emergencies. The duo has developed an AI/ML-based Bluetooth stethoscope (AiSteth) and a companion app to detect anomalies and early warning signs.
Built on the lines of a snickometer, used in cricket to detect inaudible sounds (like the ball slightly edging the bat), AiSteth captures and streams the audio data on its companion Android app. The input is then converted into a visual waveform for screening, detecting and predicting cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory or other medical conditions.
The app also stores patient data and sound recordings in the cloud for instant access and further diagnosis.
The patent-pending medical device has received an ISO certification and is awaiting FDA and CE approvals to enter the US and UK markets, respectively.
The Bengaluru-based medtech startup earns revenue from device sales and enterprise and individual subscriptions for app usage. Primary sales channels include medical colleges, state- and privately run hospitals, diagnosticians and medical professionals.
AI Health claims it has partnered with 130+ doctors who have screened 12K+ patients. It aims to serve 1 Mn+ Indian patients by 2024 and 10 Mn+ patients globally by 2026.
Turning Biowaste Disposal To Green Power
Generating clean energy from waste disposal is critical for a thriving circular economy and sustainable growth. Hence, Jaipur-based Bijson has developed a suite of innovative solutions after more than two years of R&D.
The startup launched five products late in 2017, including an organic waste processor, a bio-CNG plant, a dairy waste-based biogas plant, a sanitary pad disposal machine and a programme to audit solid waste management.
Converting organic waste into cooking gas and organic manure is carried out through a series of biochemical reactions in a sealed environment. Bijson’s organic waste processor does not require any external power source for operations and can be installed outside any property that produces a considerable amount of wet/food waste.
The dairy waste-based biogas plant recycles dairy and kitchen waste, agricultural surplus, animal or bird excrement and municipal solid waste into biomass using anaerobic digestion principles. This biomass is later purified and compressed into usable gas at the startup’s bio-CNG plant, attached to the biowaste-to-biomass converter.
Next comes SPD-10, a fully automatic and compact sanitary pad disposal unit that can be mounted in toilets and takes less than 10 minutes to incinerate the waste without impacting the environment.
Finally, the audit programme helps organisations identify the type of waste they produce and manage each category more efficiently. It also educates the staff on waste disposal methods and promotes natural processes, thus reducing waste management costs.
Bijson plans to expand beyond Jaipur in FY24 and generate more revenue by selling its equipment, customised gas products and biowaste-related services.
A C-Suite Network Turns Digital, Doubles Down On Offerings
Despite the presence of professional networking sites like LinkedIn and its ilk, offline and exclusive networking events held a unique advantage for CXOs, who wanted to boost their influence and expertise. But with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, digital became the new physical, and virtual networking lost the C-suite exclusivity.
It also resulted in a pivot for Gurugram-based Blue Circle, which used to run offline, industry-specific leadership events since 2017 and broke even. After the pandemic struck in 2020, it launched an online professional network for senior executives, entrepreneurs, VCs and industry professionals.
The platform has a freemium membership in place and offers various value-added features via its apps. Members can connect with more than 20K leaders from India and abroad, search for relevant people, start discussions, seek expert advice and exchange business opportunities via a dedicated ‘opportunities’ feed.
They can also join virtual masterclasses and sector-specific offline conferences, access bite-sized sectorial insights and choose from 20+ sector-focussed communities.
Currently, Blue Circle is an ‘invite-only’ exclusive platform for senior leaders, but soon, it will be open to all professionals. The startup has a waitlist, and eligible candidates are approved within 24 hours.
Before launching its digital-only platform, Blue Circle charged up to INR 1.5 Lakh per year as a membership fee. It piloted a paid membership programme in 2022 and gained 100 paid members within a few weeks. The startup plans to increase the number of members to 500K by 2024 and launch a sector-specific jobs section.
Auto-Generating Product Tours, Updating Help Docs For SaaS Firms
Ever heard of Deskamp, a note-taking tool for students and researchers? Three techies from IIT-Madras developed it but struggled to cope with an issue they never anticipated. It was that age-old query from new users: How does it work?
It was an eye-opener for college mates Akash Anand, Neel Balar and Prajwal Prakash, who soon realised the pain point of SaaS companies taking new customers through product tours and how-to guides. This business necessity ties up valuable resources as customer help centres must be updated around the clock. Also, for every product release/upgrade, one must start working from scratch to ensure the UI/UX is not out of sync.
Recognising the need for a technology leap, the trio set up Clueso in February 2023. Its cutting-edge solution combines robotic process automation with generative AI to crawl through any SaaS tool and convert screen recordings of product features into interactive videos to auto-generate product tours, audio/video tutorials/how-to guides and other help documents. Better still, they get auto-updated whenever it is required. The startup claims to generate help content up to 15x faster than traditional methods.
The Bengaluru- and San Francisco-based startup earns through an annual subscription model and claims to have made $400K within two months of its launch. Clueso is operational in India, the US, Australia and several countries from the SEA, EU and LATAM and plans to grow its annual revenue to $1 Mn by FY24.
Automates API Testing For App Development
Creating backend tests involves setting up test environments, simulating dependencies and regular maintenance. This complex and time-consuming process also leads to errors and regression risks. So, SaaS startup CodeParrot aims to automate this critical but routine task for developers.
Set up by serial entrepreneurs Royal Jain and Vedant Agarwala in 2022 in Bengaluru and San Francisco, CodeParrot captures API (application programming interface) calls from the production environment (including requests made to the backend service) and downstream calls to databases, third-party APIs and other dependencies. It then generates intelligent test cases automatically using this data.
Whenever the backend service is updated, CodeParrot runs the service in an isolated container and replays the generated test cases. It also compares the responses with those captured in production while mocking downstream services. All regressions/discrepancies are automatically highlighted during this phase, enabling developers to identify and fix the issues.
As plug-and-play turnkey integration runs the test automatically, app developers need not set up a test environment separately.
The startup is still in beta but offers demos to showcase the solution to potential customers. It plans to launch the product in 2023 with a subscription model and introduce an open-source project by 2024.
Creating A Vetted Pool Of Tech Talent For IT
India has a vast pool of talented IT developers who are in great demand. Still, the sector suffers from hiring hiccups due to poor talent discovery and a shortage of comprehensive assessment tools. That’s why Gurugram-based HRtech startup Coffeee.io is on a mission to identify and evaluate developers to help them get hired.
Launched in 2022 by college friends and telecom veterans Amit Veer and Neha Sharma (former ZestMoney executive Ankit Mittal later joined the founding team), the startup works at two levels. Developers joining the pool can be assessed for the skills they want to highlight. They can also be vetted for communication skills, logical reasoning and solution designing and may appear for AI-simulated interviews. Next come recruiters who shortlist top candidates based on job openings and conduct interviews on the platform. The entire process is completed in under 48 hours.
As Coffeee works with highly skilled, vetted talent, its success rate is more than 20% compared to traditional hiring agencies with 1-1.5% success rates, the startup claims. It charges companies a one-time recruitment fee (a percentage based on the candidate’s salary) or receives recurring payments for contract workers. The service is free for jobseekers.
The platform operates in India but plans to enter global markets, including the US, Australia and Singapore. It also aims to build a community of 750K+ developers and reach $2 Mn ARR by FY24. In another two years, it will expand the developers’ community to more than 2 Mn and target an ARR of $20 Mn.
A Matchmaking Platform For Startup M&As
The startup ecosystem in India is the third-largest globally. But the country still follows an antiquated merger and acquisition procedure, with little visibility in product-market fit, market position and valuation. To revamp the outdated process, serial entrepreneur Rohit Raj partnered with financial experts Aneesh Sivakumar and Ankur Jain to launch Done Deal in 2023.
It has developed a web interface for startups to input crucial business data to help assess their valuations, position them against competitors and post their M&A terms and conditions. This information is used to generate anonymous cue cards, which are then shared across the buyer ecosystem.
Similar to how Tinder and other dating apps work, startup founders can choose who they want to engage with when potential buyers show interest.
Done Deal also provides several tools to speed up deal closures, including a data room builder for buyers looking for target companies and due diligence details. However, only actual buyers and sellers are privy to documents like term sheets, representation and liabilities.
Currently, there is no usage fee, but the platform charges a percentage of the deal value when a transaction is closed. It is still in the early-access mode for buyers, but founders can list their startups without any obligation to sell.
Done Deal went live in March 2023, but more than 180 startups have already signed up, and the platform has received 25+ active mandates from buyers. It aims to close 30 deals in the current financial year.
Its immediate focus is to grow the seller base in India, SEA and the MENA region and the buyer base in India and the US. It will also expand its team to help with cross-border transactions.
Drone Services & Insurance Aggregator
The drone industry in India is a sunrise sector projected to see more than 10% CAGR in 2023-2028. So, Bengaluru-based startup Drooyh has set up a service aggregation platform to connect service seekers with reliable vendors to help drive growth. The platform ensures a hassle-free experience for drone users (people/businesses), while service providers can easily reach out to prospects.
Launched in 2018, Drooyh’s web-based platform also provides access to bespoke solutions and end-to-end execution, catering to many industry verticals such as agriculture, road and railway, power, mining, construction and geospatial tech.
In addition, it aggregates drone insurance offers for individuals and enterprises in compliance with DGCA norms. Customers can avail of an INR 20 Lakh+ cover for third-party liabilities and a complete annual cover for DGCA-certified drones. Drooyh earns a commission from the businesses listed on its platform.
Developing Fireproof EV Battery Packs For Rider Safety
EVs are the future of sustainable mobility, but the widespread adoption of electric vehicles in India leads to safety concerns around battery packs. As EV-linked fire incidents claimed many lives and injured several, former Ola Electric executives Rahul Patel and Sheetanshu Tyagi decided to solve the safety, range and charging concerns faced by electric two-wheelers in India.
Launched in 2022, Bengaluru-based EMO Energy has developed a swappable battery pack system called ZEN PAC that uses thermal management technology to monitor battery health and maintain consistent performance in all weather conditions.
Backed by the ZEN RIG tech monitor, it assures 100% fire safety, a 20-minute fast charge and more than five years of battery life. According to the company, both two- and three-wheelers can use the battery pack. EMO’s manufacturing unit is in Mysore, and the commercial launch of its battery packs is expected by 2024.
The startup plans to monetise the venture through D2C sales, partnerships with EV OEMs and tie-ups with B2C companies and gig economy platforms electrifying their fleets. It also aims to enter the global market in the long run.
Automating Sales Ops With No-Code SaaS
It may come as a surprise, but nearly 40% of sales teams still rely on spreadsheets for critical tasks such as sales data review and analysis, payment reconciliation, commission tracking, sales planning and forecasting. However, sales operations today require better tools and technologies to move beyond mere report generation. Besides, salespeople are not trained data analysts, and many struggle with numbers, workflows and dashboards, a veritable spreadsheet purgatory from where there is no escape.
To address these challenges, IIT-Bombay alumni Kshitij Jain, Sanskar Jain and Hemant Phalak set up Entvin in 2022. The no-code SaaS platform enables businesses to automate sales tasks, create customised dashboards and gain real-time insights. Moreover, companies can instal the programme in just one day and connect it to their CRM, HRMS and data lakes using pre-built templates to streamline operations and enhance ease of use.
The Bengaluru-based startup is still in early-access mode. But it plans to launch a subscription-based solution in 2024 to ensure integration with more functionalities and provide an option for template customisation.
Secure Management Of Digital Assets Across Chains
Many believe digital assets like CBDCs, private cryptocurrencies and other popular value-generators will shape the economy’s future. Regardless of whether that happens or not, they require secure and efficient management, especially in cases of multiple and cross-chain access.
That’s why Excheqr, a startup based in Bengaluru and San Francisco, has developed a robust SaaS solution to combat the typical challenges associated with the security of this asset class.
Launched in 2021, the blockchain startup provides a secure platform for individuals, teams and institutions to manage their digital assets across multiple chains. Its cryptographic protocol prevents breaches and offers gasless, multi-owner vaults with inbuilt risk monitoring and portfolio access, all built on the next-generation MPC (multi-party computation) technology.
MPC tech allows off-chain signature computation and masks signer data from everyone except authorised team members. Excheqr has also merged various authentication factors (owner keys, login credentials and trusted device fingerprints) for added security. Then there are advanced access control, daily spending limits and time locks on fund outflows to minimise the fallout from hacks or stolen keys.
The platform is non-custodial, meaning it cannot access user vaults. On the other hand, users can create wallets on any chain without paying for gas, add/remove contributors (based on owners’ discretion) and change quorum rules.
The startup plans to launch globally by 2024 and will charge a transaction fee from individuals and enterprise customers (Web3 teams, DAOs, institutions and more). Its research arm will focus on using cryptography and blockchain for other critical functions such as wallet operations and recovery, decentralising Web3 identity management and quantifying smart contract risks.
A Fintech Service Bouquet For Bharat
On many occasions, traditional financial institutions find it difficult to design products and services to meet the requirements of their target customers. This is especially true when fintechs/FIs move beyond Tier 1 cities and the affluent class.
Finhaat, a Mumbai-based financial product delivery platform launched in 2021, aims to bridge this gap through insurance, investment and savings-related offerings suitable for the emerging middle-class and lower-income segments primarily in rural India and Tier 3 and 4 cities.
The startup works with FIs and individual financial partners (micro-entrepreneurs trained and supported by Finhaat to serve its community) to deliver bespoke solutions. Its offerings include short-term and medium-to-long-term products such as FDs, digital gold, equity and debt mutual funds, life and general insurance, annuity and pension schemes.
Finhaat operates a B2B2C model, and its APIs are integrated with FI platforms to ensure smooth onboarding, continuous support, fully automated claim processing and payment integration. Additionally, accounting and user modules for process management and reporting are leveraged by individual finance partners.
The fintech provides individual partners access to multilingual content for ease of use. Plus, a recommendation engine has been built around client queries, preferences and historical data to suggest desired products.
Revenue comes from commissions on financial products/services sold on the platform and annual maintenance fees paid by FIs and individual partners.
A Virtual Assistant For Seamless Multitasking
New-age businesses heavily rely on various software tools for daily operations, from project management and productivity enhancement to communications or CRM. However, most of these operate as standalone tools, and updating a task involving multiple programmes is mostly done manually.
To do away with these operational silos, Bengaluru-based Floworks has developed its virtual assistant called Flowy. Powered by a natural language interface, the VA can read, update and retrieve information for employees on Slack/WhatsApp. For instance, if an employee requests to book a meeting or update a project status, the VA can navigate through all related programmes and complete the task. Additionally, it can execute tasks related to data repositories such as CRM databases, calendars, mailing lists and note-taking apps.
Floworks was set up in 2022 but went live in March 2023 and onboarded 10 customers. The startup charges companies a monthly subscription fee based on the number of users. By 2024, it plans to add more workspace and messaging tools like Notion and Teams for seamless operations and grow its customer base to 100.
A Vertical Marketplace Offering Nutrition Supplements, Expert Help
The Covid-19 pandemic may be officially over, but people increasingly consume health supplements for good nutrition. However, consumers across India feel that they need more support from the current ecosystem to reach their wellness goals. Arpit Gupta and Deven Vyas, who previously worked for the online healthcare platform Practo, recognised this gap and set up GetSupp in 2022.
The Bengaluru-based startup runs an online marketplace featuring 3K+ products from 100+ brands and 50+ categories, such as daily wellness, skincare, hair care, immunity building and weight management. Among these are noted D2C healthcare and fitness brands like The Whole Truth, cult.sport, Yoga Bar, The Vitamin Company and more.
GetSupp offers a 45-day programme that connects users and certified experts to enhance people’s wellness journey, supported by products from partner brands. Users can join the programme for free, while experts are compensated based on conversion rates.
The startup charges the brands a commission on each sale and provides value-added services in marketing and content. It has not disclosed its numbers but claims that the marketplace is nearly doubling its user base month on month.
Breaking Data Silos To Drive B2B SaaS
India-origin B2B SaaS has enjoyed a dream run for years. But given the turbulence during the pandemic, followed by a harsh funding winter, all cross-functional teams need to work in sync to drive growth and revenue. Houseware (a wordplay on warehouse) was launched in 2021 by former Atlan executives Shubhankar Srivastava and Divyansh Saini to help B2B SaaS firms break down data silos and accelerate earnings through seamless data flow and analytics.
The duo had earlier noticed a massive disconnect between the data and the revenue teams at Atlan when essential business metrics were unravelled and used. Hence, they developed a no-code interface to help all teams work together.
A practical example is how the customer and the revenue teams collaborate to determine optimal pricing (profit-maximising price) with minimal impact on sales (the higher the price, the fewer the units sold and vice versa). This requires easy access to all relevant data and analytics for a win-win outcome. So, a unified report is created with pertinent metrics for the teams.
The model also tracks key problem areas such as glitches in product flow, customer churn and inadequate user engagement and creates a solution good enough for all teams involved. The startup charges a monthly subscription fee based on the size of the organisation.
Located in Bengaluru and California, Houseware came out of stealth mode only recently and claimed its (undisclosed) revenue is coming from two big SaaS companies. It plans to expand the user base in FY24 by focussing on U.S. companies and intends to grow its team by including data and engineering roles.
Creating A ‘Bot’ For Every Non-Core Repetitive Task
In this digital-first era, the focus is on automating routine and repetitive tasks to minimise errors, free up human resources and reduce costs. Located in Bengaluru and Silicon Valley, LokiBots has been doing just that since 2018 to help businesses stay competitive and cost-efficient.
The cloud-native SaaS platform has developed a bouquet of solutions around finance, accounting and forecasting, marketing and sales (including conversational AI/CRM), human capital management, document AI (for human-like document review with the help of natural language processing or NLP and machine learning) and more.
The startup uses advanced AI/ML technologies, including computer vision, deep learning and neural networks, to create virtual assistants capable of handling various tasks and fulfilling industry requirements. Also, when connected to the backend, its patent-pending bot technology continues to learn from user activities to enhance NLP capabilities, thus taking the ‘digital clones’ (Loki’s coinage for virtual assistants) to the next level.
LokiBots has adopted a subscription-based payment model (with predefined hours) and a pay-as-you-go option. However, there is no capital expenditure cost for users, hardware requirements or dependency on IT teams for deployment/usage.
It plans to onboard 100 global customers by 2024, up from the current 25, and earn annual revenue of $1 Mn by that year. It targets to grow the number of customers to 500 and annual revenue to $3-5 Mn by 2026.
Seamless Data Capture For Sales CRM
Every business seeks an easy-to-use sales CRM tool to seamlessly capture customer data from multiple interfaces and store it at a central hub for quick and easy access. But in reality, whenever there is a lead, most salespeople skip complex CRM operations and manually feed the data. This often results in poor data quality, friction (data flow impediment) and complicated follow-up processes.
During their stint as Exotel leaders, Karthikeyan Krishnamurthy, Sanjeeth R, Sid Ramesh and Anand Kumar struggled to plug these CRM data gaps and increase efficiency. So, they launched Luru in 2022 to enable no-code workflow automation, allowing sales teams to fill in/update CRM data from almost anywhere. This makes data flow as frictionless as possible, enhances productivity and boosts the go-to-market playbook of a business.
For instance, sales representatives can create if/then statements with Luru’s Chrome extension. When they use communication channels such as Zoom, Outlook, or any web page on Chrome, a question board-style prompt will come up on that page itself for easy and accurate data inputting.
Luru also takes notes during meetings and automatically updates the CRM. Besides, one can update the contact details and choose the next action to explore cold leads. Additionally, it allows sales teams to create Asana-style tasks to remind them of the upcoming work on their preferred messaging channels.
Luru earns through a subscription model for teams but is currently free for individuals.
Migrating To Web3 Made Easy
Migrating from Web2 to the world of Web3, a disruptive landscape replete with blockchains, metaverses and digital assets, can be quite challenging for traditional businesses lacking the tech muscles. But there are Web3 Samaritans around, like the Mumbai-based NoCap Meta, which realised that Web2 enterprises would need a high degree of hand-holding when taking the leap.
Set up in 2021, NoCap offers a variety of tech services, including Web3 integrations, metaverse and blockchain-based system development, tokenisation of physical assets, smart contract-based secure transactions, advanced data analytics and AR/VR designing.
The startup promises complete transparency when it works with clients to value, tokenise and list their assets, thus bringing more liquidity through NFT creation. It claims to have tokenised private and museum collections and collectables of all kinds.
NoCap caters to popular industry segments by developing online classrooms and virtual office spaces and allowing real-time participation and interaction. It also targets the entertainment space through metaverse gaming and virtual events.
It charges project-based fees and will develop Web3 tools for blockchain, AI/ML, healthcare and agritech in FY24.
A Global Payment Gateway For Fiat-Crypto Transactions
Despite legal issues in countries like India, investments in private cryptocurrencies continue, along with a rise in crypto exchanges, wallets and NFT marketplaces. However, transacting in local currencies is not allowed in many regions, putting investors in a tight spot.
As this goes against the core concept of digital cash that promotes hassle-free, borderless money, former Paytm employees Gajendra Khatri and Sagar Agarwal set up a TransferWise-like platform in 2022. Based in New Delhi and Lewes (Delaware), the global payment gateway called Payfura ensures fast and secure transactions and converts fiat money to crypto and vice-versa using local payment methods.
Users can transact on Payfura’s web-based interface, which also provides detailed insights and analytics regarding their orders. On the other hand, Web3 companies can integrate the startup’s widget/API to leverage its seamless transaction facility.
Payfura supports 150+ fiat currencies and 100+ cryptocurrencies across the Americas, the EU, Southeast Asia and Africa. Payment methods cover credit and debit cards, e-wallets, bank transfers and more. It is still working on the legal aspects of crypto sales in India, but local users can buy crypto from global exchanges.
Payfura charges a fee on every transaction processed through the platform and handles KYC and AML (anti-money laundering) requirements whenever applicable. It also plans to build its customer base in FY24.
Integrating Growth Goals To Boost Business Success
As companies grow and become more complex, they frequently encounter HR-related challenges such as team alignment, goal-setting, focus, accountability or below-par execution of human resource policies. All these are bound to hinder smooth scaling and an upward journey.
Hence, serial entrepreneurs Abhinav Chugh and Alagu Muthuraman set up Peoplebox in 2018, offering an OKR (objectives and key results) package to help fast-growing businesses overcome these obstacles, achieve their goals and build an outcome-driven unbiased organisational culture.
The Bengaluru-based startup has developed a web-based dashboard that enables companies to track initiatives, strategic goals and progress by integrating it with various work tools like SQL, Slack, Jira, HubSpot and Asana. Managers can use the solution to develop and track goals and KPIs and schedule business review meetings and performance reviews without installing new software programmes.
Other features include employee coaching, 1:1 check-ins, engagement surveys, anonymous messaging to engage employees, conducting quizzes, and generating virtual water cooler chats and virtual coffee meets.
Peoplebox has a subscription model, charging B2B clients on a per-employee per-month basis. While the startup plans to operate globally in the long term, its primary target is mid-market enterprises in the US, India and Southeast Asia until 2024.
An F&B Startup Nourishing Health With Organic Goodness
Everyday food items like rice, flour, sugar, cooking oils and spices are often chemically treated to enhance their taste and flavour. But people are now aware of their harmful impact on health and buy unprocessed/naturally processed and organic foods. Mumbai-based Praakritik was launched in 2016 to cater to these health-conscious consumers.
The startup’s journey began with A2 ghee (hand-churned, clarified butter) made from the milk of desi Gir cows. And its sales went north from 2020 with the onset of the pandemic as the demand for organic foods rose significantly. Today, it offers 90+ products across eight categories – groceries, staples, oils, spices, flours, fruits and vegetables, superfoods and ready-to-eat breakfast items. All Praakritik products are FSSAI-certified and manufactured in-house.
The startup claims to source raw materials directly from farmers. Its products are sold through multiple channels, including its website, ecommerce platforms, offline retail partnerships in Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, and farmer markets in Mumbai. It plans to sell countrywide by 2024 and double its farmer network from 700.
Co-Own Luxury Cars Without Spending A Fortune
Many Indians are passionate about high-end Teslas and other luxury cars, but purchasing one can be a far-off dream for most. However, Prorata, a Bengaluru-based startup launched in 2022, offers ‘fractional’ car ownership to make this dream a reality.
The startup registers all target vehicles under LLPs (limited liability partnerships) and helps car owners set up escrow accounts, making it easy to split the cost and usage. It also provides reservation apps (Android and iOS) for slot booking and manages the pick-up and the drop-off every time a co-owner goes for a drive.
Additional offerings include periodic servicing and maintenance of the vehicle, insurance, contingency management, fair and transparent cost-sharing, reselling and exit from the co-ownership arrangement.
Co-owners can purchase 8.33%, 16.66% or 25% shares in the LLP and get to use the car for 30, 60 or 90 days, respectively, every year. One has to pay an annual maintenance charge of INR 15-50K on top of the ownership cost.
Prorata’s services are now available in Bengaluru, but its apps can be downloaded throughout India. Its goal is to run up to 1 Lakh cars in each Indian city by FY27.
A Unified API For Accessing Business Financial Data
RootFi’s cofounders – Ishwar Gogineni, Sidharth Rao and Parth Shah – were determined to set up a fintech startup in India after their overseas stint, but the market was overcrowded. Eventually, they launched RootFi in 2022, providing lenders easy access to their customers’ business financial data across platforms (prior consent is required) through API integration. This is critical for performance analytics, automated accounting and underwriting credit risk.
But there is more to this narrative. Last year, the trio had to integrate three ERP software from three countries (Tally in India, Jurnal in Indonesia and Sage in South Africa) for a client. It boosted their confidence, and they were further inspired by the success of UPI and the account aggregator network developed along the same line. To date, the Bengaluru-based startup has developed 11 such APIs for integrations across ERP and accounting space.
In essence, global companies using various accounting and ERP programmes can use RootFi to access a consolidated database via a unified API, thus saving time and resources. The startup develops a custom API for each client and charges a monthly subscription fee based on usage.
The startup also handles the ISO/IEC 27001, SOC 2 compliance and General Data Protection Regulation to ensure stringent data security.
The fintech is now operating in the APAC region, the Middle East and Africa but plans to expand to the EU and the U.S. markets by FY24 to reach an annual revenue of $1.5 Mn.
API Workflow Automation For SaaS Businesses
APIs have greatly simplified the integration of third-party applications with business processes. But developers still encounter various challenges that hinder operational efficiency. This is especially true for SaaS businesses working with multiple APIs and requiring efficient workflow management.
ShortLoop was created in 2022 by former Cult.Fit executives Sumit Mulchandani, Deepak Thakur and Vishnu Vinjam to help developers deal with issues involving payload (an information data pack sent to the server for an API request), manual changes, out-of-sync documentation and difficulty in scaling up operations.
Based in Bengaluru and San Francisco, the startup has built a centralised hub that streamlines and automates API workflows. It samples network traffic, analyses it, and puts together up-to-date API collections and dependency maps (including request-response payloads), API usage and behaviour to ensure lower downtimes, reduced backlog and faster updates.
ShortLoop offers a subscription-based, plug-and-play SDK that alerts users to any backend change. Additionally, it enables developers to maintain API collections and documentation in existing tools without any manual effort.
The startup has been operational only recently and plans to grow its global customer base in FY24.
Designing Training Programmes For Digital Marketing Greenhorns
In a digital-first world, businesses must build a solid online presence and drive digital marketing to widen their reach. But the abundance of information and tech tools available everywhere to ‘market it right’ often overwhelm people and enterprises. The cognitive overload in these cases makes it difficult to identify where and how to begin and how best to push digital marketing efforts.
Those requiring the fundamentals of digital marketing need not worry, though. Launched in 2020 by former Future Group executives, Mumbai-based Sorted has come out with personalised and practical training programmes. These courses are developed along the lines of structured curricula taught by experts and cover all essential strategies and major digital marketing channels.
These programmes are priced between INR 799 and INR 12,400, and each can be accessed on the Sorted website. After successful completion, a participant gets a certificate recognised by top digital marketing agencies and brands.
Sorted’s flagship is a four-session masterclass with case studies from the industry, real-time workshops and one-on-one Zoom sessions. This will be launched in late 2023, teaching how to create high-impact content and provide SEM and SEO courses for maximum impact on Google, Meta and Instagram.
Hiring Made Easy Through Marketplace, Expert Recruiters
Traditional hiring can be laborious and costly, and far from perfect. Even after multiple interview rounds, companies and candidates may struggle to match skills, talent, backgrounds and expectations. Couple that with rising salaries and growing HR expenditure, which will further overwhelm many businesses. That’s why Kochi-based SuperHire is using new-age technologies to make recruitment more efficient and cost-effective.
Set up in 2021, the HRtech platform connects top jobseekers to open positions through expert recruiters via its web-based staffing platform. Companies can subscribe to various plans, each with a different interview credit (maximum number of candidates they can interview). More than 250 independent recruiters currently work on job listings and provide thoroughly screened candidate profiles.
Businesses can post unlimited jobs on the platform, but a credit is only deducted when an applicant is shortlisted and interviewed. Post the hiring, each corporate client pays a commission to the recruiter concerned via SuperHire and a platform fee to the startup. Although jobseekers can use SuperHire’s services for free, they may have to pay to recruitment agencies.
SuperHire will explore additional revenue through advertising and promotional fees for highlighting premium jobs. It will pay extra commissions to recruiters for faster submission of candidate profiles (there is no timeline yet) and selling upskilling courses taught by industry experts.
The startup came out of private beta in March 2023 but plans to triple its corporate client base of 80+ by the end of 2024. It will also launch operations in the Middle East and North America and work on AI-based solutions to automate routine recruitment tasks such as job description mapping, resume screening and profile rating. It plans to operate in more than seven countries by 2026.
Bringing ESG Tech Mainstream For Business Sustainability
Experts worldwide warn of environmental crises and how businesses must act responsibly to mitigate these challenges. Clearly, sustainable development is the most effective path forward, achieved through ESG (environmental, social and governance) compliance.
Set up in 2019, Bengaluru-based SaaS startup Updapt helps corporate houses track, monitor and report their ESG data, identify gaps (if any) against widely accepted global sustainability standards and improve performances accordingly.
Its web-based dashboard allows enterprises to record their ESG performance indicators based on geographical and government-set standards. The startup also signs agreements with companies to gather and monitor data for their ESG metrics and create reports.
To begin with, it will automatically collate ESG data under various metrics such as energy and water consumption, carbon footprint generation, employee diversity and more. Based on this information, the platform does a wide range of analyses, generates ratings and rankings for corporate activities and produces comprehensive reports on the overall impact of businesses in the ESG space.
In addition, it suggests corrective measures for corporate houses to work on to avoid potential penalties or reputational damage.
Its tech tools also track each supplier’s carbon footprint through its ESG responses and calculate the risk score accurately to do away with sustainability risks at the top of the pyramid.
Updapt customises its annual subscription charges depending on the size of the organisation and the number of people using its dashboard. It also plans to enter global markets by 2025.
An Assessment & Retraining Tool For ML Models
The word ‘autonomous’ is now commonly used in many industries, but developers still depend on customer feedback to gauge how their machine learning (ML) models work. Sourabh Agrawal, Vipul Gupta and Shikha Mohanty (all three are friends and professional developers) recognised this dependency on human input.
So, they started looking for a tool that could assess, validate and refine algorithms. Soon, the trio realised the lack of an automated and reliable tool in this space and launched UpTrain in 2022 after discussing the issue with hundreds of ML experts.
Located in Bengaluru and San Francisco, UpTrain is an open-source observability and refinement tool designed to monitor ML models in real time (current precision level is around 89%) and automatically retrains where accuracy is low. Apart from tracking data drifts, it tests the quality of object embedding, provides model explainability and incorporates domain-specific knowledge filters to enhance retraining.
One can also integrate data annotation, training and deployment criteria to set up a fully automated, round-the-clock model improvement system.
As the startup offers an open-source programme, it can be integrated with major ML libraries and tools within five minutes without disrupting production pipelines.
UpTrain is in limited beta and caters to a few AI-focussed startups as part of a no-strings-attached pilot. However, the company is doing all the heavy lifting to ensure seamless integration with client models. Its goal is to generate revenue through enterprise support and consulting services by FY24.
[Edited by Sanghamitra Mandal]