The Economic Times Startup Awards 2021

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Hi there, it’s Samidha. We all know how crazy busy everyone has been this year in the startup world — either raising money or deploying money or chasing who is funding whom. We here at ETtech have had one more thing to keep ourselves busy with — The Economic Times Startup Awards 2021.

After months of hard work, India’s biggest startup awards are here

Over the past seven years, the ET Startup Awards (ETSA) have grown from strength to strength and emerged by far as the most prestigious set of accolades for entrepreneurs.

What most people don’t know is that the awards are the outcome of many months of hard work by the reporters, news desk, copyeditors, designers and our colleagues in the ET Brand team.

I thank everyone who has put in their best foot forward to make the awards such a stellar show every year — even as they have carried on with their everyday work.

The biggest and the most important component for the jury is a 200-page dossier we prepare along with our knowledge partner Tracxn. This handbook, packed with information which stays confidential with the jury, goes through hundreds of checks and rechecks before it is finalised.

Today, we are unveiling the high-powered jury which will pick the winners of the ET Startup Awards 2021 and introduce you to contenders from two categories — Bootstrap Champ and Top Innovator.

Every year, I am so impressed with startups in these offbeat categories, a number of which have gone on to become very successful (we aren’t taking any credit for that!). Do watch out for these under-the-radar ventures which may not be attracting the big cheques but are on to building meaningful businesses.

How we pick ETSA nominees: ET reached out to more than 100 of the country’s top entrepreneurs, investors, industry groups and other stakeholders to compile a list of the brightest entrepreneurial talent. This was then distilled by the paper’s editorial team, which worked with knowledge partner Tracxn to arrive at the final list. The jury finally picks the winner after long deliberations followed by voting.

Stay tuned for all the ETSA 2021 coverage through the week leading up to the virtual jury meeting on September 24.

ET jury will pick stars of India’s startup world

collage of all jury members
The seventh edition of The Economic Times Startup Awards will kick off amid unprecedented exuberance in India’s startup ecosystem.

Indian startups have raised $25.2 billion till September 9, according to data provider Preqin, compared to $11.2 billion in the whole of 2020.

New category: ETSA has nine categories this year, including the coveted Startup of the Year. The new Covid-19 innovation category will recognise startups driving solutions in healthcare, diagnostics and research during the pandemic.

The jury: Nandan Nilekani, cofounder and non-executive chairman of IT services provider Infosys and the architect of Aadhaar, will chair the jury.

Its other members are Deepinder Goyal, cofounder and CEO, Zomato; Gokul Rajaram, product and business leader, DoorDash; Sachin Bansal, founder and CEO, Navi Technologies; Nithin Kamath, founder and CEO, Zerodha; Anu Hariharan, partner, Y Combinator Continuity Fund; Amit Agarwal, global SVP and country head, Amazon India; Satyan Gajwani, vice-chairman, Times Internet Ltd; GV Ravishankar, MD, Sequoia Capital India; Harsh Jain, cofounder and CEO, Dream11 and Ankiti Bose, cofounder and CEO, Zilingo.

“One new lens to gauge startups this year would be on what they’ve learnt in a Covid world. Some have managed to accelerate, become magnets of capital and have grown very quickly, while other companies are no longer on the scene,” Nilekani said.

The contenders: We will begin with the Bootstrap Champs, entrepreneurs who have built a startup without outside funding; and Top Innovators, startups with an original idea that has set themselves apart from competition.

Tweet of the day

Freshworks eyes $969 million via IPO

Startup IPO
Freshworks is planning to raise as much as $969 million through its initial public offering at a valuation of around $9.7 billion. The software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup is expected to list on the Nasdaq stock exchange on September 22.

Details: The San Mateo-based company plans to sell 28.5 million shares in a price range of $32-$34, it said in an update to its S-1 filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday. The customer engagement software maker that rivals Salesforce could raise $969 million if investors buy at the upper end of the price band, with the offer amount rising to just over $1 billion if over-allotment of 2.85 million additional shares is done.

The company was valued at $3.5 billion when it raised $150 million from Sequoia Capital, CapitalG and Accel in November 2019.

Its prospectus, filed with the SEC last month, revealed that affiliates of investors Accel and Tiger Global both own over 25% of the company’s Class B shares, while Sequoia Capital owns a little over 12% of the same class of shares.

Salesforce Ventures makes ‘strategic’ investment in Razorpay

harshil-mathurHarshil Mathur, chief executive and cofounder, Razorpay

Digital payments startup Razorpay has received an undisclosed sum from Salesforce Ventures, the investment arm of US-based enterprise tech firm Salesforce, to help grow its business banking vertical.

The “strategic” investment will also help Razorpay expand its services in Southeast Asian markets, Harshil Mathur, chief executive and co-founder of the Bengaluru-based fintech startup said in a statement.

Quote: “I am certain that this investment, along with support from our existing investors, will help build an ecosystem for a hassle-free, easy-to-integrate payments and banking experience. We also hope to expand, build new products and deliver this experience to businesses in Southeast Asian countries too,” Mathur added.

Salesforce India’s chief executive Arundhati Bhattacharya, who was earlier chairperson of State Bank of India, is expected to play a role in advising Razorpay in its next stage of growth, the company added.

The investment comes at a time when India’s digital economy and fintech sector has seen accelerated growth owing to Covid-19-related disruptions, with both customers and businesses alike opting for digital payment solutions.

In other deals news

Cars24, an online marketplace for used cars, has raised $450 million in a new funding round led by SoftBank Vision Fund II, Falcon Edge and existing investor Yuri Milner’s DST Global. China’s Tencent and existing investors Moore Strategic Ventures and Exor Seeds also participated in the round. ET was the first to report on August 19 that Cars24 was in the final stages of raising $350 million in equity capital from investors including SoftBank.

FloBiz, a startup that helps digitise small and medium businesses, has raised $31 million in a Series B round led by Sequoia Capital India, Think Investments and its existing investors Elevation Capital and Beenext. The startup plans to use the capital for team expansion, product development and scaling distribution to serve more businesses.

■ Thrasio-style venture 10club has made its first acquisition, My NewBorn, an ecommerce online business in the baby products category. 10club had raised $40 million — one of the largest seed rounds in India — in June. Bhavna Suresh, cofounder of 10club, told ET that as part of the acquisition, My NewBorn’s founders Rakesh and Abhishek Jain will join 10club as entrepreneurs in residence for a minimum of 24 months.

■ Regional language social gaming platform WinZO has announced a $20 million fund for the Indian game developer ecosystem. This comes two months after the startup raised $65 million in its Series C round, led by California-based Griffin Gaming Partners, a global gaming fund.

Wow! Momo Foods has bagged around $17 million, led by Tree Line Investment Management, at a valuation of Rs 1,225 crore. The company operates quick-service brands Wow! Momo and Wow! China. “The reason we have them on board is they are very strong in the public markets space,” cofounder Sagar Daryani told ET.

Infra.Market, the Tiger Global-backed marketplace for construction materials, has acquired RDC Concrete from private equity firm True North. RDC Concrete, the largest non-cement ready mix concrete company in India, was acquired by True North in 2005.

■ Fintech startup M2P, which specialises in providing digital banking infrastructure to fintech firms as well as banks, has acquired credit card sourcing startup Wizi, the cofounder of M2P, Madhusudanan R, told ET.

Karnataka’s online gaming bill could hurt jobs, cautions IAMAI

China Gaming Restrictions
The Karnataka government’s proposal to ban online gambling will impact Indian skill gaming startups, which will also come under the purview of a bill tabled in the state assembly last week, industry bodies said on Monday.

Why the ban? The state government said the proposed ban is to prevent gullible citizens from being exposed to the risk of losing substantial sums online.

Details: The BJP-governed state has proposed a set of amendments to the Karnataka Police Act, 1963, to prohibit all types of online gambling activities that involve exchange of money in digital or other electronic form. The amendments, however, exclude lottery and horse racing.

Criticism: The bill appears to have been drafted without considering the various legal and constitutional positions as it includes a wide definition of ‘gaming’ and is against various judgements by the Supreme Court and High Courts, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) said in a statement. Further, it makes no distinction between games of skill and of chance, industry bodies said.

In its current format, the proposed Bill would only affect Indian companies, and betting apps and games that are based abroad would still be available to Indian gamers, they added.

This comes a month after the Madras High Court set aside a law promulgated by the Tamil Nadu government that banned online gaming. Online gaming in India is expected to more than double to Rs 29,000 crore, with the number of gamers rising to 657 million by 2024-25, according to a KPMG report.

Amazon vows ‘zero tolerance’ for corruption after report on India probe

FILE PHOTO: Smartphone with Amazon logo is seen in front of displayed Indian flag in this illustration taken
Amazon said it has zero-tolerance for corruption and will investigate all such allegations fully.

The statement came in response to a report by online news outlet The Morning Context, which said, citing three sources, that Amazon has begun an internal investigation into allegations that its legal representatives in India used legal fees paid by the company to pay bribes. It said the probe began after a whistleblower flagged the alleged bribery. The company issued the statement after Bloomberg contacted its local spokespeople for comment.

  • “We have zero tolerance for corruption… We take allegations of improper actions seriously, investigate them fully, and take appropriate action. We are not commenting on specific allegations or the status of any investigation at this time,” Amazon said in its emailed response to Bloomberg.

Challenges in India: Amazon is targeting India for growth despite increasing competition and scrutiny from regulators. Last month, the Supreme Court allowed India’s competition regulator to proceed with its investigation against Amazon India and Flipkart for allegedly abusing their dominance by offering deep discounts and preferential treatment to some vendors.

Draft ecommerce rules: India is also tightening regulations for online retailers following years of protests by offline traders who fear that deep-pocketed global competition could push them out of business.

In June, the union government released a number of proposed changes to the ecommerce rules, including a ban on ‘flash sales’ and barring “related parties” of the companies from selling on their platforms.

In response, Flipkart, Amazon India, Tata Group and other ecommerce companies told the government they were especially concerned about this “related-party clause”, which could prevent them from selling on their own platforms.

In August, we reported, citing government sources, that the Department of Consumer Affairs was revisiting the draft rules, specifically the definitions of ‘related party’ and ‘ecommerce entity’.

Other Top Stories We Are Covering

Facebook India appoints Rajiv Aggarwal as head of public policy: Facebook India appointed former Uber executive Rajiv Aggarwal as its director of public policy in the country, a post that has been vacant for nearly a year since its previous policy head Ankhi Das quit.

No GST on country’s $180 billion back-office sector: The government has clarified that services outsourced to India or carried out in the country for foreign entities will not be treated as intermediary services, and hence not face 18% goods and services tax (GST), a relief for the country’s $180 billion back-office sector.

Global Picks We Are Reading

  • Didi cofounder Liu told associates she plans to leave: Report (Reuters)
  • Stripe plans hiring push in London ahead of potential IPO (Bloomberg)
  • DoorDash to deliver alcohol across 20 US states, Canada and Australia (Reuters)

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