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India’s Unicorn Startups: The Real Story and Meaning Behind


‘UNICORN STARTUP' is a popular term among entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs aspire to have their startups entitled as unicorns someday. If you're one of them, you must be looking for the most ingenious hacks to enlist your business in the club of Indian startup unicorns. There's nothing better than following the footprints of the most-appreciated Indian startup unicorns to unlock new spheres of success for your startup.

Ailen Lee, the brain behind Cowboy Ventures, introduced the term ‘unicorn startup’ in 2013 to define numerous ventures that were scaling unbelievably at that point.

The latest statistics showcase that nearly 33% of Indian startups have bagged the unicorn title in the last financial year. The impressive percentage will empower you to dream even bigger and take your business to unimaginable success.

However, it takes a lot of effort to enlist your startup in the ‘unicorn startup’ category. You need to know more about the Indian startup ecosystem to make the journey as seamless as possible. This blog will educate you on unicorn startup meaning while revealing everything about Indian startup unicorns.

What Does the Term ‘Unicorn Startup’ Mean?

Any startup that reaches the valuation of a billion dollars is considered a unicorn startup. Earlier, the term was used to represent unique and rare startups that would create valuation benchmarks in their respective industries. Over the past couple of decades, the impeccable boom in the global startup culture helped numerous startups become unicorns.

To put things into perspective, unicorn startups are enterprises that have cracked the code of market disruption. Unicorn startups make better financial gains than others without enlisting IPOs and stocks.

Unicorn startups are generally the most visionary ones built based on viable strategies. A significant characteristic of these startups is their eye on bringing positive changes to their target markets. In fact, the long-term vision of a unicorn startup conveys its differentiating factor to private investors or venture capitalists, making fundraising comparatively easy for the founders.


Unicorn Startup: Features and Facts

From the previous sections, you must have understood that unicorn startups are pretty distinctive compared to usual startups. In fact, startups become more inclined to walk on distinctive paths after they scale up and turn unicorns. The distinct characteristics of unicorn startups are as follows-

Privately Operated

The founders of unicorns rarely walk on the path of diluting ownership. General statistics convey the fact that startup unicorns across the globe remain privately owned for prolonged spans. Even if the founders of unicorn startups decide to go public through IPOs, they do it after reaching certain milestones. Most unicorn startups acquire funding from reputed venture capitalists to establish a valuation benchmark.

Tech-driven Operations

Startups backed by cutting-edge technology are more likely to achieve unicorn status. Based on IBEF's report, the total valuation of the startups in the Indian e-commerce market is supposed to go up to $188 billion by 2025.

Potential startups ideally use technical advancement as a tool to grow exceptionally and turn unicorns. The most successful startups leverage the latest technology to offer seamless services to their users, and that helps them disrupt the market more conveniently.


A vast majority of global unicorn startups aim to discover innovative target markets that are not generally targeted by existing businesses. Despite the risks involved in targeting unconventional markets, startup unicorns manage to maximize their profit margins with innovative problem-solving skills.

Simply put, they eventually get rewarded for the risk they bear while exploring a new domain. This is why startup unicorns are considered trendsetters. In fact, investors don't evaluate unicorn startups based on their financial parameters and analytics. Instead, they bet on these startups' compact business plans and revolutionary visions while investing.

Constant Service Upgradation

There's no saturation point of success for unicorn startups as they always aspire to become better. A startup unicorn doesn't usually have a preset growth limit, and such a startup can be scaled to new heights with on-time strategic implementations. In fact, the core purpose of most unicorn startups is to make people's lives as better as possible. Unicorn startups keep moderating and improvising their operations to fulfill their core goal.

Market Disruption

Unicorn startups make the market disruption process look smooth and effortless. They hold the potential to change the game entirely with innovations that are beyond imagination. The scalability of their innovations also remains unexpectedly high, helping them capture their target markets quickly.

The Number of Unicorn Startups Across the Globe

Previously, the word ‘unicorn’ used to be associated with a startup to signify its statistical legacy and supremacy. The number of global unicorn startups has increased significantly throughout the past decade, and India has been successful in occupying the third position among the countries with the highest number of unicorn startups.

In fact, India has been way ahead of China in adding more unicorns to the economy in the past year. 2021 has been a fruitful year for the Indian startup ecosystem, as around 44 startups have turned unicorns.

At present, the approximate number of global startup unicorns is 900. The US tops the list of countries with the highest number of unicorn startups. Approximately 625 startups are operational in different states of the US, while the number of startups in China is around 312. The United Kingdom is next to India on the list of countries with the highest number of startup unicorns.

Economists and experts expect the number of Indian startup unicorns (107 unicorns present) to increase ten times in the coming years. India's tier-2 and tier-3 cities will supposedly produce more unicorn startups than ever. Research also suggests that India is going to be the home to 122 new unicorn startups in the next four years, which will make the Indian economy stronger than ever before.

The predictions above are highly possible as India's startup ecosystem is getting better daily under government supervision.

The First Unicorn Startup In India

InMobi is the first Indian startup that attained unicorn status almost 11 years ago. It started its journey as a mobile advertisement optimization agency and has become the first unicorn startup in India.

Naveen Tiwari, the CEO of InMobi, shared in an interview that the brand achieved unicorn status by implementing innovations consistently over the years. In its 11-year journey, InMobi has managed to serve its target audiences in the best possible ways.

The CEO also added that the concept of a startup unicorn was not prevalent back then. InMobi has been through multiple transition phases to become what it is today. The company also kept altering its business strategies according to the changes in the market to ensure better elevation in the profit margins. The startup has reportedly raised over $250 million from different investors, and the owners have been enjoying high-profit margins since 2016.

Unicorn Startup in India

You already know how many unicorn startups in India are operational now. The big bang happened in the Indian startup ecosystem in 2011 with the unstoppable growth of InMobi. Since then, unicorn startups have kept multiplying, and it is predicted to cross the 200+ mark easily in the coming years.

Reports suggest that more than 60000+ new startups were launched within the past five financial years, raising a whopping amount of 333 billion dollars as funding. Total funding of 42 billion dollars has been raised through 1584 funding deals in 2021.

The Fintech sector in India single-handedly acquired the highest gross funding of around $3.82 in 2022. The newly launched Startup India initiative is a master plan of the government to back Indian startups. Some pioneering Indian unicorn startups have set examples for early-stage startups, and following them will help you understand the roadmap to become a unicorn.

The Most Iconic Indian Unicorn Startups


Flipkart completely remodeled the online shopping trend in India, and the phenomenal startup turned unicorn in 2012. Flipkart outplays all Indian unicorns with a current valuation of approximately $37.6 billion. The startup raised around $3.7 billion in 2022. Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal are the stalwarts who founded Flipkart. Now, Flipkart's subsidiaries include Myntra, Cleartrip, and PhonePe. All of them have also disrupted their specific domains.


Livespace entered the interior decoration industry in India in 2014 to explore new horizons in home renovation. The startup turned unicorn in 2022 and has closed ten funding rounds with different investors. Currently, the estimated valuation of Livspace is around $1.2 billion, and the total funding raised by the startup is almost $450 million.


LEAD is the only EdTech startup to join the club of Indian startup unicorns in 2022. The startup is committed to curating tech-centric learning programs to improve the schooling experience for students. LEAD stands out among numerous EdTech ventures with a jaw-dropping valuation of $1.1 billion.

Final Words

The way to turn your startup unicorn is full of turns and twists. Every startup founder undergoes hardships and turmoil to make their ventures stand out. We hope that this article has made you understand unicorn startup meaning and elaborated on everything about unicorn startups.


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