Two-Thirds Of ‘Indian’ Unicorns Aren’t Based In India

Indians have founded over 60 unicorns. But only 21 are from India.

Inflatable unicorns stand on display at the Noah technology conference in Berlin, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)
Inflatable unicorns stand on display at the Noah technology conference in Berlin, Germany. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Two out of every three unicorns founded by Indian entrepreneurs are headquartered outside the country, a new survey showed.

Indians have produced 61 unicorns—startups valued over $1 billion—so far. Yet, 40 of them are based outside the country, according to the Hurun Global Unicorn List 2020. The 21 unicorns that are based in India have a cumulative valuation of $73.2 billion compared with $99.6 billion worth of unicorns founded by Indians overseas.

An overwhelming number of Indian entrepreneurs have built unicorns in the U.S. Of the 40 unicorns outside India, 36 are in the U.S. alone—mostly in the famed Silicon Valley area. “The U.S. is the most preferred country by the Indian origin entrepreneurs to establish their ventures,” the Hurun annual publication said. The rest is based in the U.K., Germany and Switzerland.

Still, India is home to the fourth highest number of unicorns in the world after the U.S., China and the U.K. One97 Communications Ltd., parent of online payments platform Paytm, tops the chart with a valuation of $16 billion. That’s followed by edtech startup BYJU’s and hospitality startup Oyo Hotels & Homes at $8 billion each.

The most valued unicorn by an Indian entrepreneur overseas is trading platform Robinhood, which commands a valuation of $8.5 billion, according to Hurun. Others include delivery startup Instacart in the U.S. and biotech firm Roivant Sciences in Switzerland.

The e-commerce sector has given India most unicorns. One out of every three Indian unicorns is engaged in the online retail space, Hurun said. “As a budding digital market, India holds the potential to explore the e-commerce realm,” Hurun said. “It is followed by fintech and shared economy, which serve as the business sectors for four and two unicorns from the list, respectively.”

Bengaluru remains the country’s unicorn capital with eight such companies based in the southern city. Gurugram and Noida follow suit with six and two unicorns each. “Bengaluru contributes to the list by adding unicorns worth $29 billion in total, while Gurgaon and Noida contribute by $19 billion each,” the report said. “Despite being home to only two of India’s unicorns, Noida has a 24% valuation share since Paytm has a base in the city.”

Indian unicorns have also been attractive bets for several foreign investors. Masayoshi Son’s Softbank is the most active, having invested in nine Indian unicorns—more than any other investor. Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group and Tiger Global Management have stakes in five Indian unicorns. Sequoia Capital has invested in four.

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