India is an incredibly unique environment for startups and entrepreneurship in general. First, China is a major factor in the funding and control of many Indian startups. In 2015, Alibaba invested in Paytm through its affiliate Ant Financial. In 2017, Tencent took major stakes in Flipkart and Ola.
Japan is also a serious provider of funding in India. Japanese giant Softbank has invested over $8B in startups in the country, with a goal of $10B by 2024 that now looks surprisingly conservative.
India’s startup environment also has a major dichotomy between highly funded companies and those struggling to raise capital.
You may be surprised to learn that India is currently home to 26 unicorns (startups valued over $1B) with 5 new unicorns joining the club in 2018 (the most on record for a single year in India).
Similar to China, India has powerful demographic and economic trends driving growth in not only its startups, but also country-wide for the economy. India’s economy is growing at a very healthy annual rate of 7.2%.
Although the definition of the “Indian middle class” is contentious among researchers, the growth of technology, consumer luxuries, and quality of life is not up for debate. Just one quick stat to show how fast things are changing: There are more than 450 million smartphone users in India today, vs. just 86 million five years ago.