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‘Indian SaaS start-ups to rule the next decade; more unicorns to emerge’

N Ramakrishnan Chennai | Updated on July 22, 2020

The next decade – 2020-30 – was going to be a decade of Indian SaaS (Software as a Service) start-ups

Ecosystem in India mature enough, in terms capital availability and technical talent

The next decade will see more Indian start-ups building products for the domestic market and at the same time tackling the global market. The start-up ecosystem in the country is mature enough to support the global aspirations of ventures, in terms of availability of capital and technical talent.

But, as Rajan Anandan, Managing Director, Sequoia Capital India, said those starting up in India need to be clear who they were building for. Entrepreneurs should build for a specific user set that has got a problem which needed to be solved, he saidin a webinar on ‘Building for India, Building for the World,’ organised by Ankur Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm, as part of its Ankur Capital Dialogues. This session was organised jointly with TiE Delhi-NCR.

Anandan said the next decade – 2020-30 – was going to be a decade of Indian SaaS (Software as a Service) start-ups and there would be more unicorns – ventures that command a valuation of a billion dollars – emerging out of the country.

India and South-east Asia combined with the GCC would be a nearly $20 trillion economy in the next 10 years, presenting a huge market for start-ups from the country. The first wave of start-ups targeted the US market with products built in India; now, with more small and medium businesses in India adapting technology and willing to pay for it, start-ups in the country were tapping them for business.

Anandan did not think ventures needed to succeed in India first for them to go global. He referred to the example of companies such as Freshworks that started selling to the US right from day one. “You didn’t need to win in India to sell elsewhere, but if you build for India, you can build for the world,” he said. He added that ventures should win whichever market they were building for. Once ventures had built scale in their home market, they could then look at similar markets.

Krishna Kumar, Founder and CEO, CropIn Technology, an AgTech start-up, said when they had started out in 2010, they were looking to solve problems for small- and medium-sized farms in India, simply because they did not have the wherewithal in terms of capital and talent to look outside. They were now selling their product and services in more than 50 countries, showing that they could map problems in other countries and solve for them too.

Kumar said global markets offered them higher revenues and within a year-and-a-half, nearly 80 per cent of their revenues were coming from global markets, with the margins being much better than through domestic sales. “If you have global ambitions, invest in the language, invest in UI/UX and invest in local market campaigns,” he said.

‘Must win’ markets

Alexandre Lazarow, Investment Director, Cathay Innovation, said start-ups must figure out how to win in the “must win” markets as that was crucial in doing well in other markets. There was going to be an evolution in the venture model itself – the nature of venture funds that were supporting international expansion, there were changes in the types of venture products that were getting created and there was a rise of new players, corporate investors, that would fuel the start-up ecosystem.

CropIn’s Kumar said his company had a good balance in the board in terms of impact investors and mainstream investors and if a founder had global aspirations, global capital would help.

Anandan pointed out that there was enough capital available in the world. If a venture was building products for the next billion, the challenge was on how they would monetise it. India, he said, was no longer a lab that was being used to capture the global market; it was a large market by itself.

Published on July 22, 2020

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