After a tumultuous 2022, this year may bring a much-needed resurgence as Indian startups revisit strategies to emerge stronger
The 30 Startups to Watch series for February brings forth the change in consumer behaviour, although enterprisetech, ecommerce and fintech remain the most prominent sectors at this point
The list also highlights unique business ideas developed around EV, logistics, clean energy, foodtech, gaming and more
The startup ecosystem in India never saw a dull moment, even during a pandemic year or a cyclical downturn, made harsher by geopolitical unrest and macroeconomic headwinds. Of course, it was counterintuitive to assume that Indian startups would be on course for record funding amid the pandemic gloom. But in 2021, they amassed $42 Bn, nearly a 4x jump from the $ 11.5 Bn raised in 2020.
The year 2022 was sombre. As investors went into a wait-and-watch mode due to stagflation fears and VC funding slowed to a trickle, the cash burn rate had to be minimised and profitability needed to go up. Thousands were laid off in the process (even legacy companies and the big tech did the same, citing a sharp slowdown), and many startups were shuttered or acquired. The utopian growth narrative of the previous year suddenly had a hollow ring.
But the exercise in frugality brought value. It added to the maturity of the ecosystem, promoting more robust business models and tempering the breakneck growth with steady profitability. Meanwhile, industry disruptors continued to leverage the latest technologies to cater to fast-evolving consumer trends and enterprise-level requirements.
We took a month’s break after publishing the annual review in January, listing the best of the 30 startups shortlisted from the 320 profiled throughout 2022. But now we are back in action, ready with the February list, after delving deeply into how startups prepared to build a stronger future.
While young businesses are learning to cope with a challenging landscape, the all-new ground rules are expected to give rise to a more robust startup ecosystem, currently the third-largest in the world. The funding inflow is still down, though. During January and February of 2023, Indian startups cumulatively raised $1.7 Bn, a drop of more than 81% year on year.
Is it business as usual in startup land?
Well, they quickly shrugged off the aftereffects and went back to the drawing board to work out new business strategies. Some of the theses are already well-known, including the hyperfocus on profitability, differentiated business offerings and a spotlight on the sunrise sectors like e-mobility and climate tech. For the new entities, 2023 is an opportunity to find a new growth path not taken by their less successful counterparts.
Clearly, the next big thing will take time to happen. We cannot get ahead of our time without solid groundwork and a slow but steady climb up the ladder.
30 Startups To Watch: February 2023
The February edition of 2023 – overall, the 36th edition of Inc42’s 30 Startups to Watch – explored the current trends and featured some promising startups operating in enterprisetech, ecommerce and fintech. These sectors have seen exponential growth in recent years, and their continued success validates the vibrancy of the country’s startup ecosystem.
There is a renewed focus on digitalising employee-employer communications and workflow collaboration in the enterprisetech space. In fact, out of the seven startups covered under this category, four are building data-driven open platforms for employee engagement and retention.
Then there are D2C brands and marketplaces. True to their mettle, these formats evolved in the past three years as consumer/prosumer behaviour changed significantly. We have featured seven of them in the current edition as they continue to dominate the digital commerce space.
Others who made their way to the curated list include four startups specialising in fintech, two each from EV, gaming, edtech and agritech, and one each from climate tech, logistics, foodtech and travel tech.
Editor’s Note: The list below is not meant to be a ranking of any kind. We have listed the startups in alphabetical order.
Sustainable Athleisure For The Petite And The Plus
The onset of the pandemic in 2020 prompted people to adopt healthy lifestyles such as consuming natural foods, opting for holistic wellness and exercising. As people spent more time in leisure and workouts, the global demand for athleisure/activewear went through the roof. And for many, it became the new style on the street.
In India, the activewear market was worth INR 80 Cr in that year and counting. But work friends Jeevika Tyagi and Kanupriya Mundhra observed a size disparity between what women needed and what was available in the athleisure market. To do away with the limitations of clothing choices, the duo set up Aastey in 2021.
The Mumbai-based D2C brand offers a sustainable line of athleisure apparel under three categories – Aastey Flex (gym wear), Aastey Seed (comfort wear) and Aastey Breeze (sportswear). Made of recycled polyester that uses plastic waste from landfills (procured and processed by GRS-certified vendors), the mid-luxury, long-lasting clothes are lightweight, stretchable and breathable. Also, sizes vary from petite to plus, another deal-maker for many women body-shamed by the traditional fashion industry.
Overall, there are 70+ products under five categories, ranging from apparel to eye masks, scrunchies, yoga mats and water bottles. All products are made in-house and sold on the brand’s website.
Aastey aims to become carbon neutral by FY24 and triple its annual revenue from FY22 by serving a community of 60K+ women in 2023.
A Fintech’s Cleantech Drive To Empower MSMEs
More than 38% of Indian MSMEs do not rely on any formal source of power provided to industrial units. Yet, few have shifted to green energy alternatives like rooftop solar in spite of several schemes promoted by the government.
Anand Jain, an MBA from Yale University, was aware of the pain points hindering rooftop solar’s easy adoption – a lack of low-interest credit for installation, difficulty accessing the tech stack and no ready reach to a green energy market to monetise excess production. On the other hand, large-scale implementation would have brought down fuel imports, decarbonised the country and led to significant job creation. Keen to use his domain knowledge in solar and finance to help change the existing power dynamics, Jain set up the solar financing platform Aerem in 2021.
Its flagship is Aerem Asset Assurance, a collateral-free financing solution for approved rooftop solar systems. Loans are provided through its NBFC arm Aerem Finance and its partner bank, the Bank of Baroda. Loan amounts vary between INR 5 Lakh and 1 Cr for a tenure of 36-72 months, and interest rates (undisclosed) are low.
Aerem also does in-house quality checks of the hardware offered by various solar installers and EPC companies. Post a comprehensive product scrutiny, MSMEs on the platform can compare prices for the best possible deals and opt for post-purchase support.
The solar-focussed fintech is now creating brand awareness and building partnerships with installation companies to bring solar capacity to more than 2 Cr MSMEs by 2025.
Crafting A Classic-Contemporary Jewellery Range
With many Y2K trends making a comeback, minimal metal jewellery (read subtle but impactful) has carved a niche and appealed to both millennials and Gen Z. It has also seen the rise of startups like Noida-based Amama, selling a unique range of handcrafted silver and gold jewellery. Inspired by her grandmother’s heirloom silver, former Louis Vuitton and Forever 21 executive Nikita Gupta launched the D2C brand in 2018.
Amama’s in-house production unit in Noida has created more than 5.5K jewellery pieces. Its ‘Exclusive’ range of jadau, kundan and navratna jewellery, made to order by the startup’s designers, brings a royal touch to contemporary concepts. In contrast, its ‘Curated’ category features items from global designers.
The startup sells its products across marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart but claims 95% of the revenue comes from its website. It also participates in jewellery shows to promote its premium-affordable range and gets a 10% ROI.
Amama products are available in more than 47 countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, France and Switzerland, among others.
The brand eyes an annual revenue of INR 18.3 Cr in FY23 and aims to 4x it in another two years by growing its online business globally and setting up physical stores in India. It also plans to open walk-in stores in Tier 2 and 3 Indian cities in 2023 to increase brand awareness.
Re-engineering EV For The Differently Abled
The EV ecosystem in India is fast nearing large-scale adoption, with the government planning to electrify more than 30% of the vehicles by 2030. However, few startups in this space have rolled out an adapted vehicle to make this new-age technology genuinely inclusive. Gurugram-based Aponyx (formerly GoGreenGo) is an exception, though.
Its flagship is a recently launched tri-scooter for the differently abled. The vehicle is fitted with a proprietary 48V lithium-ion detachable battery, which runs up to 95 km on a full charge and can be charged up to 2,500 times. Its removable storage space also allows riders to use the vehicle commercially.
Aponyx has a portfolio of 13+ products, including two- and three-wheelers, loading vehicles, e-bikes, EV batteries and software. It has a company-owned manufacturing unit in Gurugram and a dedicated team of engineers and designers for developing EV hardware and software. Plus, it ties up with small retailers and roadside shops to set up EV charging stations.
The startup was set up in 2017 but launched its first product in 2021 after years of R&D. Compared to its new-age peers, its digital presence needs to be improved, but the EV player has made big strides into the offline ecosystem.
Aponyx claims a strong dealership network for B2B (white-labelled EVs) and B2C (personal use) markets. It is also building a physical distribution network and plans to launch more high-speed bikes and tri-bikes for the differently abled by 2025.
Making Shoes Which Expand As Kids Grow
Kids are bound to outgrow clothes and shoes within a few months, and preschoolers grow even faster, going through up to six clothing sizes by the time they are three. It is often a strain on parents’ wallets and leads to massive waste generated by the kids’ wear industry.
Pune-based Aretto is solving part of this problem by designing a footwear brand that can grow with a child’s feet.
Launched in 2022 by school friends Satyajit Mittal and Krutika Lal, the D2C startup’s flagship is Aretto Leaps. These shoes are made using proprietary technology that helps expand shoe soles up to three sizes or 18 mm and thus reduces the standard size chart from 15 to 5 for kids aged two to six. The startup has a patent in India and filed for a utility patent (a patent for invention) on its sole technology across 20+ countries.
Biomechanically speaking, Aretto shoes provide expandable soles, memory foam insoles and a 3D knit pattern, making footwear flexible, breathable and comfortable. It offers 38 SKUs in five sizes, nine styles and four categories, made in its Faridabad factory and sold pan-India via the website. The shoes are priced affordably between INR 2,199 and INR 2,799.
In addition, it has partnered with preschools, primary schools and kids’ enrichment centres, helping 3K+ parents shift to the brand in the past three months.
Aretto plans to launch an affiliate programme for mompreneurs in 2023 as part of a wide sales funnel. In another two years, it will target selling 500K+ shoes and open exclusive brand stores (EBOs) in Tier 1 cities. It will also enter the US, the UK and the Chinese markets in 2026.
Building Tools For Intra-Company Tacit Knowledge Transfer
Water cooler chats go far beyond petty office gossip, paving the path for solid social interactions in an oft-disconnected professional world and revealing interesting insights into a company’s culture. Now that work has gone hybrid and work from home (WFH) has become more routine than exceptions, most employees need a ‘digital’ water cooler place to stay updated on anything that matters.
Launched in 2020 by childhood friends Ketaki Ogale, Omkar Pandharkame and Vihang Mirkhelkar, Mumbai-based enterprise tech startup BHyve has developed web and mobile applications to offer just that, connecting employees in large, hybrid organisations.
Its flagship is a knowledge passport for all employees, featuring their skills, interests and positions in the organisational hierarchy. It also allows colleagues to endorse them, learn from them or create toolkits for casual questions.
Employees can ask questions, host polls, discover mentors and share their knowledge across formats (audio, video and text). This helps reduce the learning curve for new team members and do effective knowledge harvesting, capturing the knowledge of experts within the organisation. In addition, the gamified platform rewards employees for asking questions or sharing answers through points and social recognition.
BHyve has a subscription-based revenue model with monthly charges per user, given the number of licences a company has purchased. It is available globally but currently building a B2B client base in India. So far, it has onboarded 11 companies and 15K+ employees.
By FY24, it aims to reach $1 Mn in annual revenue by entering the US market. The long-term plan is to build a connected community product called Hexaverse that will act as a knowledge transfer platform between corporations and universities and enable companies to discover and hire talent.
Easy Banking For Non-Tech-Savvy Migrant Workers
As India’s fintech ecosystem took wing and explored different subsects, serial entrepreneurs Sajid Jamal, Rajesh Johnny and Ankur Gupta wanted to factor in inclusivity to push growth. They had exposure to the global remittance space and also witnessed the plight of the underbanked migrants at home when cash became scarce due to policy reasons or during the Covid-19 crisis. So, the trio built a neobank called BranchX in 2020, mainly to help the rural poor who frequently migrate to urban India in search of income.
At BranchX, every family gets two debit cards – a Raja card for the breadwinner and a Rani card for the family – linked to a single wallet. The BranchX Android app acts as a ledger for the whole family and tracks all money movements. It also features an animated AI chatbot Xenie that educates users about financial products like micro-insurance, investments and small-ticket loans in six or more Indian languages.
The startup has partnered with more than 3K small retailers and individuals who operate as customer touchpoints. For a small commission, they will help migrant workers access their wallets to load, transfer or spend money. BranchX earns a 20% commission only when users opt for loans, insurance, investment and other financial products.
By the end of 2022, the neobank created 11K+ wallets and facilitated 400K+ remittances worth more than INR 300 Cr. It plans to acquire 30 Lakh+ customers, set up 50K+ financial outlets and facilitate transactions worth INR 1,200 Cr+ in another two years.
From Selling To Shipping, A Zero-Hassle Service For Chemicals Manufacturers
Globally, India is the sixth-largest chemicals manufacturer, accounting for nearly 7% of the country’s GDP. However, low-volume growth, a falling rupee and extreme competition make it difficult for small and medium enterprises to run their plants at 100% capacity or build businesses at scale. So, Elchemy is helping them increase export revenue by eliminating supply chain inefficiencies and ensuring a seamless customer journey.
Launched in 2021, the New Delhi-based startup runs a tech-powered marketplace and distribution platform that connects Indian manufacturers with global buyers and ships the cargo to more than 13 countries, including the US, the UAE, Singapore, Brazil, Switzerland, Uganda and Tanzania, among others. It has partnered with logistics players at various levels (first-mile and last-mile deliveries, FCL/LCL shipments, tracking, customer service, and more) to provide end-to-end shipping solutions. Currently, it has a presence in more than 20 national and international ports.
Elchemy supports the movement of 55+ chemicals across six industries – adhesives and sealants, agrochemicals, water treatment chemicals, cosmetics and personal care items, dyes and pigments, and plastics and polymers. The platform helps companies with order procurements, quality checks, domestic and international logistics and customs clearances, earning a gross margin on the orders fulfilled.
The startup claims to be making around 10 FCL shipments every month since October 2022. It aims to improve its supply chain operations in 2023 and strengthen the team to make order fulfilment more efficient. By 2026, it plans to do $5 Bn worth of business with small chemical manufacturers in India.
An EV Rental Startup For Every Need
As clean mobility becomes part of our everyday narrative, Gurugram-based EVeez has created a hassle-free option for businesses and individuals to take this ‘green’ revolution ahead. Launched in 2019, EVeez offers e-bikes on rent for commuting, delivery and in-campus mobility, helping reduce the carbon footprint of vehicular traffic and deal with incredibly high fuel prices.
These customisable e-bikes are meant for individuals, gig workers, small businesses and logistics companies, and users can rent these as long as they want. The startup has worked out a wide range of monthly subscriptions, keeping in mind EV features like range (60-130 km per charge), carrying capacity (up to 150 kg), speed, battery capacity, number of battery swaps and more. Plus, there is no additional cost for a rider as the company takes care of maintenance and replacement of parts required due to wear and tear.
EVeez has partnered with OEMs to deploy more than 2.5K e-bikes across Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata. With more than 1.5K gig workers, 150 small businesses and 15 logistics players and fleet operators on the platform, it hopes to clock INR 6 Cr in revenue in FY23.
By 2024, it plans to rent 25K e-bikes, delve deeper into personal mobility solutions and add preventive maintenance to its list of services. The next target is to cater to 100K gig workers by 2026 and establish a presence in all metros and Tier 1 cities.
An Agri E-Marketplace For The Underserved Farming Community
The agrarian distress in India is far from over. According to the Economic Survey Report recently tabled in Parliament, the agri growth rate was down to 3% in 2021-22, and a ‘reorientation’ is urgently needed to cope with multiple challenges. Among the major issues are rising input costs and a fragmented supply chain that fails to make farming profitable for small-scale farmers. Aware of the ground reality, Bengaluru-based Faarms has developed a comprehensive agri ecommerce solution to lower input costs and drive revenue growth.
Set up in 2020, the startup operates at three levels. To begin with, it runs a procurement marketplace and sells a complete range of farm inputs, including seeds, biofertilisers, agrochemicals, animal feed and agricultural equipment. Better still, it makes doorstep deliveries, reaching out to nearly 9 Lakh farmers in 140+ pin codes in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
In addition, the platform helps farmers list their produce in a centralised catalogue management system and enables them to sell to institutional buyers across the country. The startup charges a commission on the products sold through the marketplace.
Registered users can also pay utility bills via Bharat BillPay, buy insurance products and pay premiums. Faarms has partnered with Axis Bank to provide short-term agri loans to its farmer base and charges a fixed (undisclosed) processing fee.
Finally, there is Faarms TV, a YouTube channel featuring best farming practices and related information from scientists and agricultural experts. It offers videos in seven languages and has nearly 6K subscribers.
The startup will begin pan-India operations by 2024 and help small farmers with agri exports in the long term.
Providing Digital Access To Rural Consumers Via Assisted E-Shopping
It is tough to convince rural communities to adopt a new digital commerce platform unless recommended by someone they trust. Aware of how rural India differs from urban e-shopping, the husband-wife duo – Vamsi Udayagiri and Hema Nandiraju – decided to bank on the power of ‘peer influence’ and launched the assisted ecommerce startup Hesa in 2020.
The Hyderabad-based startup has onboarded local partners/influencers across its operational areas to help rural consumers access a wide range of products and services, from financial solutions (such as small-value loans, FDs, insurance schemes and cash withdrawal facilities) to agri inputs, skill development courses and more.
These influencers, or Hesaathis, are trained to assist buyers in finding the most relevant products. They also bundle and process bulk orders via an Android super-app to simplify online shopping. Overall, they act as a customer touchpoint for all issues and get a small commission from the startup.
On the B2B front, the startup has partnered with more than 35 brands from agritech, edtech, fintech and FMCG segments to sell their products on the super-app. It charges a 1-30% commission depending on the product/service. Hesa is responsible for last-mile deliveries (in the case of products) and connects Hesaathis with relevant officers to ensure smooth procedures (in the case of services).
The startup currently operates in seven Indian states, claims to have onboarded 46K+ Hesaathis and eyes an average monthly turnover of INR 15 Cr in FY23. As agritech and FMCG categories account for 60% of its revenue, Hesa plans to add more brands under the top-grossing categories to 5x its revenue in the next financial year. It will also double the Hesaathi base to support extended business operations.
An Ecommerce Marketplace For New-Age Parents
Parents tend to get overwhelmed when buying kids’ clothes because there are too many brands in the D2C space. To simplify their buying journey across product categories – from everyday essentials like clothes and diapers to baby accessories, toys, books and more, IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus and former Udaan executive Akriti Gupta launched the ecommerce platform Jollee in 2022.
The Gurugram-based managed marketplace provides a one-stop shopping solution, helping parents discover the most suitable products for babies and kids up to 12 years. According to the startup, it works with a handful of companies chosen by experts. Among these are Cherry Crumble, R for Rabbit, Thasvi Wooden Toys, Smartivity, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury and more.
Jollee runs a website and Android and iOS apps, selling 10K+ products from 100+ brands. It earns a seller’s margin on each product sold and ships the goods pan-India. It has started making revenue from Q1 2023 and plans to streamline the model by FY24.
Bridging The Gap Between Classroom Knowledge & Industry Skills
The lack of ‘employable’ people among university degree holders underlines the biggest bane of Indian education – a gaping mismatch between academic learning and job skills in demand. Eventually, many ‘freshers’ get stuck in low-paying, low-skilled jobs with few growth prospects. Realising that a new sync would be needed between higher education and industry-level skills in a post-pandemic India, Bengaluru-based Kalvium was started in 2021.
Its flagship product is a four-year, earn-as-you-learn undergraduate programme in computer science held in partnership with accredited universities. In the first year, students undergo rigorous training in relevant industry skills. During the next three years, they intern as remote software developers with leading tech companies alongside their academic training. This helps them earn a minimum monthly stipend of INR 15K.
Currently, students from India, the Middle East and Africa can join the programme, and upon completion, it will help them earn an annual package between INR 25 Lakh and INR 40 Lakh. The edtech startup charges a 10% fee on a student’s annualised CTC in the first year. But students need to pay it only after their graduation.
Kalvium partnered with Lovely Professional University in 2021 to launch its first B.Tech cohort of 34 students. By 2024, it plans to tie up with more than 10 Indian universities and build a student base of 500+. In another two years, it will join hands with 20+ universities in India and onboard 20 more across the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia, scaling to an annual intake of 20K+ students.
A Food Rating System Doubling Up As A Nutrition Labeller
When the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) made nutrition labelling mandatory for packaged food items, many F&B brands struggled to comply with the new system. However, Mumbai-based LabelBlind recognised a fresh opportunity emerging from heightened compliance.
The startup was launched in 2021 as a SaaS-based food rating system. But the FSSAI mandate to disclose nutritional information on food packages soon spurred its product offerings. By December 2022, it was ready with three products – a digital food rating solution (LabelBlind), a food labelling solution (FolSol) and a nutrition and quality checker called the Positive Nutrition Labelling (PNL).
LabelBlind rates the nutritional value of food products on a scale of 1-to-5 (where 5 signifies the highest standard), thus helping consumers with healthy eating. The algorithm of the rating system has been validated against the guidelines set up by the FSSAI and the US FDA.
Still in beta, FoLSol is a web-based label-making solution that has aggregated and digitalised the entire compliance process for F&B players. A company opting for this service has to choose the F&B item/s from the menu, add serving sizes and specify nutrition data, health tags, allergen advisory and other parameters to generate the digital label. This can be downloaded and printed for a small fee.
FoLSol also puts all essential services, including laboratory tests, quality checking and standard certifications, on a single platform for F&B companies. This minimises the risk of incorrect labelling.
PNL is an R&D work-in-progress, studying the baseline nutrition values of packed food products.
As the FolSol solution is less than a year old, the startup is still in talks with F&B companies to understand their nutrition labelling requirements. Based on the input, it will create a standardised labelling software product by 2025.
An All-In-One App For Mobile Data Management
India held a mobile edge when the pandemic struck the world in 2020. And its app economy has continued to flourish due to a significant rise in mobile-first consumers and businesses. Whether it is work or entertainment, education or health, ecommerce or hyperlocal deliveries, there is an app for every possible use case, underlining an urgent need for mobile data collation, analysis and management at business and personal levels. Hence, brothers Anupam and Anurag Vijayvergia built Lio, an easy-to-use, all-in-one mobile app to optimise efficient data usage.
Launched in 2020, the Mumbai-based SaaS startup has developed all-in-one Android and iOS apps to help organise all sorts of data under 60+ data templates, varying from income and expenditure tracking to creating wedding registries to making to-do lists and more. It is available in 10 Indian languages and Bahasa (used in Indonesian), with more than 45% usage in vernacular languages.
Lio’s user base includes SMEs, home businesses and solopreneurs, communities with professional affiliations (doctors, salespersons, taxi drivers, farmers and the like), personal interest groups like fitness or travel enthusiasts or individual users like students or homemakers. The apps allow businesses to work with their teams in real time by creating documents together and sharing them with others on WhatsApp, Gmail and other social apps.
The startup has a freemium model and plans to expand its reach by adding more languages and integrating with more communication apps to enhance user experience. It has not disclosed its revenue but plans to build more data templates to engage with a large number of professionals and interest-based communities.
Equity Stock Trading Simplified For Newbies
With the investment tech industry awash with perplexing jargon, Bengaluru-based Liquide was launched to make stock market investing more simple and more fun for new users. Its journey started in 2021 with an equity investing app. It allowed a user to log in with an existing brokerage account and get the essential context regarding the stocks.
On the Android app, users can buy stocks curated by Liquide’s specialist investment team and get automated notifications about selling. They can also analyse market movement and investor sentiment, browse top-rated stocks, track portfolio health and manage their stock holdings.
The app offers freemium features such as expert guidance and access to exclusive benefits, including smallcase (Liquide-curated portfolios), expert hotline, VIP screeners, unlimited trades and unlimited portfolio health checkups (one-time free consultation available).
Liquide’s prime product is LiMo, an AI-powered bot that accesses in-depth stock research reports and offers buy/sell/hold recommendations for free, resulting in gains nearly 75% of the time. For context, the startup is registered as an enterprise research analyst with market regulator SEBI.
Liquide has not disclosed its plans but claims a steadily growing investor base of 200K+ and an AUA of INR 500 Cr with more than 5% monthly returns to investors.
Business Planning & Analytics For New-Age Tech Companies
Data management and data-driven actions become increasingly complex as companies grow due to disparate data sources and high reliance on spreadsheets. Bengaluru-based Mantys aims to simplify this process by integrating different data sources (such as CRM and ERP) and automating data processing.
Set up in 2022, the SaaS startup provides a business planning and analytics solution for mid-market, new-age tech companies. Its web-based dashboard enables them to access real-time data, including financial and business metrics, in one place, track the metrics, simulate different scenarios, get insights faster and plan for the way ahead.
The startup claims that its automated processes reduce the time to generate reports and metrics by at least 60%. The subscription-based plug-and-play solution also provides access to many planning and analysis templates, cutting down on data input and structuring time.
Optimising Logistics To Reduce Supply Chain Wastage
Globally, the supply chain architecture tends to be capital-intensive, but not without reason. Think of under-optimised resources (empty rides post deliveries, poor warehousing and inefficient inventory management) or inadequate data sharing among key functions, leading to ballooning costs. That is why Mumbai-based MatchLog has developed a suite of solutions to reduce wastage in the supply chain and deliver value to all stakeholders – sellers, buyers and logistics companies.
For starters, the SaaS player offers its logistics clients a plug-and-play web dashboard called MiSTY (MatchLog’s Integrated Street Turn Yard) to ensure streamlined road, rail, air and maritime transport operations.
MatchLog offers first-, middle- and last-mile deliveries and drayage services, all supported by a single-window transport management system (TMS). This ensures optimum route planning (based on cost and minimum carbon emission), offers intermodal and multimodal shipping, enables quick price comparison, manages documentation and bookings and tracks shipments and invoices.
Then there is container triangulation or street turns, where containers are taken directly to the next loading points to cut down on empty rides. The startup says this practice has reduced 36K Mn tonnes of carbon emissions annually and saved its customers millions in freight charges.
Its TMS also ensures that the cargo, equipment and vehicles are within a mile’s range of each other to reduce multiple/empty trips. In fact, more than 40 parameters are considered before a decision is taken in these cases.
MatchLog charges a customised fee in each case as MiSTY’s end-to-end logistics interface manages the entire journey for its client base of exporters, shipping lines, BCO/4PL/3PL players, transport partners and asset owners.
Adding Hassle-Free Multi-Payments To Ecom Carts
Ecommerce has changed the way we shop. But digital-first brands still struggle to cope with payment hassles as very few fintech companies provide comprehensive solutions for a fast-evolving environment. Mumbai-based fintech SaaS startup Nimbbl addresses this pain point by integrating major payment methods, technologies, products and services.
Set up in 2020, the startup’s key product is a one-click checkout that simplifies payments for online shoppers. It eliminates redundant form fields, unnecessary steps and multiple OTPs and redirections, making e-transactions easier and reducing cart abandonment. It enables businesses to run their payment operations from one place with multiple payment gateways where businesses can choose from a list of providers. Businesses can track their payments via the startup’s dashboard.
Nimbbl’s ‘payment links’ allow businesses to receive payments via UPI, cards, net banking, wallets and more through a personalised link, while its ‘payment pages’ offer a ready-to-use interface for businesses operating without websites and apps. Another no-code solution provides multiple payment gateways, and businesses can choose from a list of providers.
It also offers an RBI-compliant consumer credit product/BNPL so that ecommerce brands don’t have to set up a similar tool. It only needs to specify the type of BNPL (standing instruction, stack-up, balloon and more), select/create a funding partner, add and enable the payment plans and upload customer credit limits.
Nimbbl’s products are designed to serve businesses of all sizes, from ecommerce players to payment aggregators, BNPL providers and more. These can be integrated into websites using SDKs and help companies plug into various enablers like Shopify, Woocommerce, OpenCart and Magento. The fintech charges a transaction fee based on the transaction volume of the business.
Workforce Automation For Retail Players
With the ‘gig’ model dominating many industry sectors, enterprises and aggregators increasingly look for automated solutions for efficient workforce management. But Mumbai-based NymbleUp has gone beyond the routine and built a retail-focussed forecasting engine that can predict demand across all sales channels to help companies with resource planning and workforce scheduling.
Launched in 2019, the SaaS startup’s AI solution guarantees 90% forecasting accuracy, resulting in smooth operations and a 1-3% reduction in labour costs. Moreover, service levels are not compromised as NymbleUp ensures that workers with the right skill sets are available across all hours.
Once the solution is integrated with a company’s human resources management system (HRMS), a customised dashboard will pull employee details to generate schedules based on sales demand, operational guidelines and team availability. The startup also provides tools for digitalising store tasks and conducting checks and audits. In addition, its AI-based operational analytics helps retailers make data-driven decisions and respond to changes in demand in real time.
The startup has not disclosed its revenue but claims to be working with two global food service brands and plans to cater to other industry sectors, including warehousing, healthcare and hospitality, by 2024.
Simplifying Financial Management For Small Businesses
Financial management is the backbone of any business, big or small. While big companies leverage large teams and robust tech solutions to manage accounting, payrolls and payments, small businesses often do things manually to cut costs. Launched in 2021, Bengaluru-based Pice aims to solve the challenges of payment processing for small and micro-entrepreneurs.
One of its key offerings is a hassle-free, inline payment system that does not require multi-platform capabilities. Payments made via the SaaS platform are instantly settled without any waiting period for new beneficiaries or restrictions on the first transfer amount. Its all-in-one web dashboard enables instant salary disbursals and automatic reconciliation to run day-to-day operations without a hitch.
These are viable solutions for small businesses as the startup has a flat fee structure and does not limit the number of transactions.
Pice claims to have finished beta-testing its products and plans to launch the service suite by mid-2023.
A One-Stop Digital Engagement Platform For Cricket Fans
Fanboys and fangirls are back in action post-Covid. But given the digital enhancement, both in-stadium and at-home sports viewers seek deeper engagement. Apart from traditional broadcasts (and webcasts), a plethora of fantasy games, prediction contests, analyses and discussions on social media and the web keep people engaged. However, the market is far from saturated, and there is enough scope to monetise content and merchandise. Aware of the demand-supply gap, Podeum was launched in April 2022 to bring all activities and engagement solutions for cricket fans within a single app.
The Bengaluru-based startup offers creator-led engagements and customisable fantasy and prediction games. For instance, influencers on the Android app-based forum can host games and run live sessions during live matches to boost engagement. Fans can participate in these live prediction and fantasy games, engage with others and access live match analyses by experts and celebrities.
Podeum was a pre-revenue startup until December 2022, but now it has started charging gamers a one-time subscription fee. Users can make in-app purchases from April 2023, and creators will be paid for branding and promotions.
In 2024, Podeum plans to build its community of gamers and cricket enthusiasts while scaling up its platform and building a bigger market. In the long term, it intends to leverage the rapidly growing user base (current growth rate is 4x month over month) to emerge as one of the largest sports fandoms in India.
Product Demos Created In A Jiffy
A lot of tech products/solutions are too difficult to understand at first go and need product demos or instructional/how-to videos for better customer engagement. But click-through demos are often too generic for one’s liking, while making personalised product videos is time- and resource-consuming. So, Bengaluru-based Rivia.AI provides users a Loom-like video solution and interactive features to create and share media.
Launched in 2020, the SaaS startup has developed a no-code Chrome extension for companies to create interactive videos by cloning their solutions and then recording, annotating and editing the screens on top of the clones. These demos can be instantly shared by links or by embedding them in websites. One can also add voice-overs and ensure that end users can play these videos at their required speed.
Although intended for product demos, the startup claims that the Chrome extension is increasingly used by companies to record their workflows and automatically convert those into step-by-step guides complete with screenshots. The solution is mainly used to create onboarding and training guides, document products and internal tools and share know-how.
Rivia.AI has not disclosed its financials or plans, but the startup claims it is working on product development and monetising the solution.
Travel Now, Pay Later Is Transforming The Way Indians Travel
The pandemic has waned considerably, but revenge travel continues to trend even in 2023. Aware of a vast gap between aspirations and constraints (fund crunch was a common issue even before the unprecedented health crisis), Abhilasha Negi and Akash Dahiya launched SanKash in 2018.
Although sales slumped during the pandemic, the travel fintech startup built sound business partnerships and currently provides a travel-now, pay-later option, enabling users to borrow between INR 10K and INR 10 Lakh. Some TNPL features include easy loan processing, instant approval and a customised payment plan for booking a package with its partner tour operators such as SOTC, Thomas Cook and Veena World.
The startup charges a processing fee from customers, an MDR fee from travel partners (typically a percentage of the total transaction amount for transaction processing) and a commission from its partner NBFCs.
SanKash has a wide offline presence with 90K+ PoS, but it plans to enter the online market in a big way and work with OTAs, hotels and airlines by 2024. Its revenue has been growing nearly 40% month-over-month in FY23, and it will up its customer base and annual revenue by 50% in the next financial year.
Focussing On Indian Lore For Mid-Core Gaming
The gaming industry in India is rooted in Western lore and myths. But there lies a vast but untapped repository of Indian content that can be used for a wide range of intriguing games. So, brothers Abhaas and Prateek Shah launched Studio Sirah in 2020 to tap into the immense potential and build unique games embedded in millennia-old Indian culture.
The Bengaluru-based startup combines rich content with immersive art and deep progression systems to create mid-core mobile and PC games. Its flagship free-to-play game, Kurukshetra: Ascension, is inspired by the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, besides the country’s ancient literature portraying gods, heroes and mythical creatures.
The game, still in beta, claims more than 120K organic downloads on Android and Steam (a platform for buying and playing video games). Its DAU/MAU ratio (a stickiness metric) exceeds 20%, and an average session spans more than 25 minutes.
The startup plans to launch its second game by 2024 while adding features to its existing game and monetising it through collectable cards, in-app purchases and more.
A Community Management Platform For Driving Growth
As online communities empower brands to engage with a larger audience meaningfully, they play a crucial role in driving awareness, customer loyalty and sales while reducing business costs. Aware of their growing business impact (not surprising as customers want a say in how things are run), Bengaluru-based Threado has developed a web-based solution and dashboard to help businesses manage their online communities on platforms like Slack, Discord, Twitter and GitHub.
Set up in 2020 by former Zomato executives Pramod Rao and Abhishek Nalin, the SaaS platform generates actionable insights into how community members engage (maximum contribution and other essential metrics are considered for the same), enabling community managers to optimise their strategies.
Threado automatically fetches and analyses the data from integrated platforms so businesses can view, filter and customise member cohorts based on engagement criteria and send personalised messages at scale. It also provides easy-to-use templates for member onboarding, engagement and surveys.
The startup offers a 21-day free trial and three types of monthly subscription plans (Pro, Growth and Enterprise) based on the size of the community, number of integrations, workflow templates, personalised reach-outs and more. It also claims to engage with nearly 3 Mn people across 680+ online communities and businesses such as On Deck, Rocketlane, Glide, Ultrahuman, Scalar Academy and FamPay.
Threado plans to 10x its clientele by 2025 after launching on Product Hunt in August 2023.
An All-In-One Upliance for Smart Cooking
Young people away from home often need help with what (and how) to cook. But faced with a similar challenge during the pandemic, IIT-Bombay alumni Mahek Mody (a former Ather executive) and Mohit Sharma (earlier with Chaayos) decided to build a smart cooking system to help people prepare nutritious, bowl-style meals minus the hassle.
Keen to transform modern Indian households, Mumbai-based Up⤴️ has launched its first home ‘Upliance’ called delishUp⤴️ in 2021. It features a smart jar with pre-set cooking tasks (chop, grind, stir fry, sauté and boil), an integrated weighing scale and 200+ recipes (essentially, step-by-step guides) on a tablet-style touch screen. One can choose from the existing oriental food bowls (rice, pasta and more) and cook for up to four people using delishUp⤴️.
The Wi-fi-enabled appliance uses jar sensors to read food temperature and blade sensors for ‘customised’ food processing, as these can perceive the thickness of ingredients. The product has been patented in India and manufactured in-house in Bengaluru.
The startup has adopted a D2C model and offers a four-day trial for INR 499 in Bengaluru. The commercial delivery of the product started in January 2023.
Up⤴️plans to deliver 150K+ appliances by FY24 and targets INR 150 Cr in revenue. It plans to build and beta-launch a smart and connected microwave (warmUp⤴️) and a refrigerator (chillUp⤴️) by 2026.
Gamifying 21st Century Skills For Young Learners
Gamification is good for learning, says seasoned professional Karan Baweja, and what he preaches has been put into practice with the launch of his skilling startup Upsurge. Launched in 2021, the New Delhi-based edutainment platform uses gamified solutions to help schoolchildren learn a host of 21st century life skills, including critical thinking, problem-solving, communication and empathy, financial literacy, entrepreneurship and more.
The platform focusses on STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics), a holistic combination of logic and creativity, and features educational games, content, quizzes and knowledge quests curated by experts. Games like Gourmet Empire (virtual café management) and Knowledge Quests (10-15 minute adventures) are designed to be fun and engaging. But they also challenge young learners while teaching them important skills like teamwork, leadership and creative innovation fit for a fast-evolving, largely automated world.
Upsurge has developed a unique rewards programme to keep children learning more and making progress. Kids earn points that can be redeemed for real-life prizes like books and stationery, educational trips and vouchers from Decathlon, Crosswords, Zomato and Swiggy.
So far, Upsurge offerings have been free for its 3K+ users. But it has adopted a monthly subscription model and eyes INR 25 Lakh in revenue in March this year. By 2024, it plans to grow its user base to 1 Mn with at least 10% paid customers. It will also add more than 25 games and 50 courses and run a B2B campaign to onboard more schoolchildren.
Incident Management Made Quick And Easy
Cybersecurity incidents disrupt all industries and businesses in today’s hyper-connected, tech-first society. But some geographies suffer more than the rest. For instance, IBM Security’s annual X-Force Threat Intelligence Index found that the Asia-Pacific region topped the attack list in 2022 for the second consecutive year. The growing concern over such threats has led to the rise of incident management platforms like Zenduty.
Set up in 2019, the Bengaluru-based startup provides comprehensive solutions to help companies respond quickly and efficiently to critical incidents. Its flagship is a web-based dashboard called Zenduty Incident Command System (ICS). While cybersecurity incidents are just one of the many types that Zenduty alerts on, it is used by infrastructure, SRE and support teams amongst others. The solution can be integrated with infrastructure, application monitoring and logging tools and a wide range of collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams and Google Chat.
The SaaS platform’s intelligent routing and notification system alerts the right people within 30 seconds of an incident. An on-call and post-incident management feature allows employees across divisions to communicate fast for rapid action. And an analytics dashboard helps engineers learn from such incidents for better prevention. Overall, these risk mitigation solutions can effectively help DevOps, SRE (site reliability engineering), ITOps and support teams. Zenduty charges a subscription fee based on the number of employees served.
It plans to enter major global markets across North America, the EU and the APAC region by 2024 and add a host of solutions, including incident intelligence and diagnostics, automated root cause analysis, alert correlation and incident forecasting, to its suite of services.
Seaweed Packaging To Fight The Plastic Menace
Mumbai-based Zerocircle is the brainchild of ex-Googler Neha Jain, an environment enthusiast promoting a minimal carbon footprint. She started to explore what could be done at an industrial scale to maximise greening and came across a natural alternative to paper-and-plastic packaging – seaweed, to be precise.
After extensive R&D, Zerocircle was launched in 2020 to produce thin films, coatings and glues from seaweed. These products are home-compostable and marine-safe (in case the bioplastic packaging materials end up in the water and get consumed by aquatic life).
The low-energy, green processing technology can be easily integrated with the existing (plastic) production line with minimal changes, thus ensuring an affordable green transition without impacting jobs.
Most importantly, its large-scale use will soon reduce the packaging industry’s heavy dependence on single-use plastic that does not get dissolved even after hundreds of years.
The startup has tied up with two farms in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu to procure red, brown and green seaweed sustainably. After collection, the weed is dried and powdered to make products like wrapping film, fabric, bags, shoe soles, gloves, masks, medical sutures, laminates and more.
Zerocircle is at a pre-revenue stage, still conducting R&D and creating products for government certification. It is also in talks to set up a large-scale, affordable manufacturing ecosystem in Pune by 2024.
[Edited By Sanghamitra Mandal]