Even as 2022 included what many have called a funding winter for startups, it still ended on an optimistic note as Indian tech companies managed to raise over $25 billion in 12 months. While this was a significant drop from the blockbuster funding of $38 billion in 2021 when the ecosystem broke all records in terms of fundraising and minting unicorns, it’s still more than two times the $11.3 billion funding during 2020. Nothing captured the heady spirit of 2021 like the launch of startup series Shark Tank India in December 2021. With a bunch of mostly startup founders from unicorns and soonicorns, the series made the business of funding took hitherto unknown corners of the country. As for 2022, one feels, has really missed its defining moment.
According to data compiled by Fintrackr, 1,327 startups raised $25.2 billion across 1,556 deals. This includes $21 billion from 330 growth stage startups and $4.2 billion from 1012 early stage startups. The funding details of 214 startups, mainly in the early stage, remained undisclosed.
The overall funding declined by more than 30% in 2022 when compared to 2021. In the past five years, the Indian startup ecosystem has raked in around $100 billion in venture capital funding. The year-on-year chart reflects the volume and value of deals since 2018.
The year 2022 kicked off with startups raising $4.57 billion in the very first month but as months progressed, the pace lowered and the first quarter ended at $12 billion. The second quarter saw a further dip at nearly $8 billion in funding with May being the month with the lowest amount. During the second half of 2022, the monthly average stood at around $1 billion, a steep fall against more than $3 billion per month during the first half. This was the actual period when startups saw fewer big rounds while many deals reportedly got delayed due to the economic downturn.
The month-on-month rise and fall in funding can be seen below:
The full report can be downloaded here.
Top 25 growth stage deals in H1, 2022
To understand the deal flow during the first half or H1 of 2022, Entrackr has prepared a list of the top 25 deals across early and growth stages. During H1, DailyHunt’s parent company VerSe Innovation scooped up a whopping $805 million, which turned out to be the largest round of 2022. Edtech firm Byju’s also announced an $800 million round whereas foodtech major Swiggy raised $700 million to enter the decacorn club in January.
Blockchain startup Polygon and SaaS startup Uniphore also joined the list of startups that raised larger rounds with $450 million and $400 million respectively. Importantly, startups in the top 25 growth stage list raised at least $150 million or more in their funding round.
Top 25 early stage deals in H1, 2022
Cricket NFT platform Rario raised $120 million in one of the largest Series A funding rounds in the Indian startup ecosystem. E-commerce roll up company GOAT Brand Labs, game streaming app Loco, B2B manufacturing Groyyo and B2B digital marketplace Solv also raised over $40 million and became top fundraisers amongst early stage startups.
Top 25 growth stage deals in H2, 2022
During the second half or H2 of 2022, there were fewer larger deals. However, edtech companies Byju’s and upGrad, and e-grocer Bigbasket managed to raise over $200 million in their funding round. Unlike the first half, only 11 startups (out of top 25) raised more than $100 million in a single round.
Notably, very few startups managed to raise more than two financing rounds in 2o22. Byju’s, Money View, among others are on this list.
Top 25 early stage deals in H2, 2022
Blockchain startup 5ire announced its $100 million Series A round at a valuation of more than $1 billion and entered the club of unicorns. According to the startup, it had previously raised $21 million at a valuation of $110 million. There were other big deals (in the range of $20-57 million) in the early stage as well such as Keka, PriceLabs, Hygenco, Uolo, Dezerv, Mojocare, GlobalFair and Sitara. Others, however, were relatively low in cheque size.
Unicorns chasing profitability
The number of startups that attained unicorn status declined sharply to 24 in 2022 against 43 in 2021 and 11 in 2020. During the first quarter (Q1), 15 startups entered the unicorn club, while Q2 and Q3 saw four and five, respectively.
Notably, Indian startups failed to mint a unicorn in the last quarter.
As per Fintrackr’s data, only four unicorns were profitable in the last financial year or FY22. Of the 24 unicorns of 2022, 15 were in losses, according to their annual financial statements. Edtech platform PhysicsWallah was on top in terms of profits with Rs 98 crore. Fintech platform Oxyzo, e-commerce SaaS company Commerce IQ, and MamaEarth, which recently filed its IPO papers, also posted profits in FY22. HR tech platform Darwinbox, interior design company Livspace, SaaS company Amagi, and healthtech platform Molbio did not file their FY22 numbers. It’s worth noting that Amagi, Molbio, Shiprocket and Games24X7 were profitable in FY21.
Established unicorns still bleed money
In May 2022, India saw its 100th startup unicorn. An Entrackr report also highlighted the profitability status of these unicorns as of FY21. Even in FY22, the majority of established unicorns continued to bleed heavily.
Fintrackr has prepared a list of 30 unicorns (the ones that achieved this status in 2021 or earlier) to analyse their financial health. Of the 30, only two unicorns including Infra.Market and OfBusiness were profitable in FY22. A couple of companies such as Zetwerk and Moglix were close to breaking even while Lenskart slipped into losses.
Mergers and Acquisitions
The year 2021 saw more than 250 mergers and acquisitions, but in 2022 there were 204 such deals. During the funding winter, industry experts expected more mergers and acquisitions deals but that didn’t happen at the same pace. Nevertheless, a bunch of startups made headlines like the acquisition of Blinkit by Zomato in a $568 million deal. The notable deals in the top 10 includes the acquisition of Pickrr by Shiprocket, Ezetap by Razorpay, Knowlarity by Gupshup, Karza Technologies by Perfios, Setu by Pine Labs, Indus OS by PhonePe.
The impact of funding winter can be traced through the decline in ESOP buybacks by startups across stages in the latter half of 2022. As per data compiled by Fintrackr, around 25 startups announced ESOP buybacks worth $200 million during the last year, a fall from $440 million worth ESOP buybacks in 2021. In 2020, the value of ESOP buyback stood at $50 million.
Fintech unicorn Razorpay topped the list and became the biggest wealth creator for its employees with a $75 million worth ESOP liquidation program. Foodtech company Swiggy also announced a $23 million worth ESOP liquidation program after attaining decacorn status. Ninjacart, Pine Labs, Rebel Foods, Cars24, Slice, NoBroker and Porter also joined the list. Most unicorns were conspicuous by their absence in the list.
As per media reports, Walmart-owned e-commerce major Flipkart is going to award a $700 million one-time cash payout to holders of employee stock options, including those from Phonepe. This could be the biggest buyback for the startup ecosystem in India.
Comparison 2022 Vs 2021
Entrackr has prepared a comparison chart for a better understanding of decline in fund inflow, startup unicorns, ESOP buyback, startup IPO, and larger funding rounds in 2022 against 2021.
City and segment wise deals
Bengaluru, once again became hub of startups as 652 startups from the city raked in nearly $13 billion funding during 2022. This is 50% of the total funding during the last year. Delhi-NCR-based startups were the next with 389 deals amounting to $5.3 billion. Mumbai, Chennai, and Pune made it to the top 5 list, which is similar to that of the top 5 list from 2021.
Segment wise, fintech remained on top with 230 startups raising over $4 billion. E-commerce, SaaS, healthtech, and edtech startups were next on the list. While healthtech climbed to fourth position in 2022 from fifth position in 2022, edtech slipped to fifth from the second position during the period.
India-focused startup fund launch
Despite the funding slowdown, venture capital, private equity, and debt firms continued to make fund announcements. As per Fintrackr’s data, more than 100 India focused investment firms announced their new fundraising in 2022. It was a significant increase from 75 such funds in 2021. Entrackr has prepared the top 25 India focused funds (according to their fund size) announced in 2022.
Layoffs and shutdown
Amid slowdown in funding, Indian startups saw mass layoffs, mostly during the second half of the year. Data compiled by Fintrackr shows that more than 20,000 employees were laid off in 2022. This includes full time employees and contract employees at companies such as Ola, and Blinkit. While most of the startups fired employees due to funding crunch, market conditions, cost cutting measures and a way to increase their runway, a clutch of them also cited those layoffs as part of their performance appraisal process. Byju’s group including WhiteHat Jr and Toppr, Unacademy, Vedantu, and Frontrow saw mass firings while around half a dozen startups such as Lido, Udayy, Crejo.fun, and Qin1 shut their operations permanently.
A caveat: The number of employees laid off during 2022 could be higher since several startups may have not been reported and there were undisclosed number of firings in some companies.
As previously reported by Entrackr, edtech was among the worst hit segments among all. As per numbers available through various sources and media reports, edtech accounted for nearly 50% of the total firings, which is concerning for a segment that was on top in terms of funding in 2021. For context, edtech startups scooped up $5.8 billion in 2021 which further fell to $2.3 billion in 2022. Clearly, plans of most edtechs for the post covid opening up did not survive contact with the real world.
Early Stage deals on par with 2021: Despite low funding, early stage deals in 2022 were on par with 2021 numbers. As per Fintrackr’s data, more than 1230 early stage startups announced their funding in 2022 against 1245 in 2021. This could be attributed to early stage focused funds and angel investors who continued to pour in capital. For context, IAN Group invested in 52 seed and early-age startups in 2022 whereas Bharat Founders Fund said that it backed 45 startups in the last year. Angel investors such as Kunal Shah, Kunal Bahl, Rohit Bansal, Aman Gupta, and Karthik Bhat topped the list in early stage investments, according to a report by Venture Intelligence. While the deal count was reduced, it did not impact the overall numbers.
Unicorns still chasing profitability: Out of 24, only three unicorns reported profits in FY22. A couple of companies such as Amagi and Molbio may join the list. It means only 25% of unicorns will be profitable. A clutch of startups such as Zepto, Turtlemint, Rapido, and Money View could have joined the unicorn club. However, they chose to remain soonicorns with valuation in the range of $900-950 million.
Funding boom for Agritech and EV: Agritech and EV startups managed to raise more funds than in previous years. However, there were no unicorns from both segments in 2022.
Tiger and SoftBank trim investment: After emerging as the unicorn maker in 2021, Tiger Global took a backseat in large investments in India in the first half of 2022. The trend continued till the end of the calendar year. As per reports, the firm was planning to slow its investment for the next two quarters (2022). Softbank also said that it will stay away from major investments in India.
Debt funding in growth stage: The funding winter forced growth stage startups to go for debt, especially during the second half of 2022. Data compiled by Fintrackr showed that around 22 growth stage startups picked up debt-only rounds in 2022. Out of these, 18 debt funding was recorded during H2, 2022.
Web 3 and Crypto: Startup community was going gung ho over Web3 and crypto in the initial phase of 2022. However, the excitement did not continue as they failed to raise capitals as expected. Also, many crypto and web3 startups shifted their base to Dubai and other countries over the course of time due to regulatory hurdles in India. Meanwhile, the central government also indicated that the RBI would like to ban private cryptocurrencies in India and it would wait for the global regulatory environment of crypto to evolve further before proceeding with newer regulations.
Decline in startup IPO: As per data, 11 Indian startups such as Paytm, Zomato, EaseMyTrip, Nazara, CarTrade, Freshworks, Nykaa, Fino, MapMyIndia, Policybazaar, and RateGain listed on the bourses in 2021. However, it declined to merely two in 2022 as Delhivery and Tracxn managed to go IPO in the last calendar year. Many companies have stalled or delayed their IPO plan even after filing their DRHP. The list includes Droom, OYO, boAt, Snapdeal, Mobikwik, PharmEasy, and Digit Insurance. D2C beauty brand MamaEarth became the latest to file IPO papers with SEBI.
Fair rating points for startups: According to a research report by Fairwork India Ratings 2022, home service marketplace Urban Company has topped the list of fair work ratings. The research platform gives points on the basis of fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation. The report further highlighted that Ola, Uber, Dunzo, PharmEasy, and Amazon Flex did not score any points and were judged poorest in providing working conditions for gig workers.
2022 has been a tough year, most founders will tell you. From the slow and ongoing burn across crypto, to the travails of the edtech category and the disasters that have been many of the ‘star’ startup IPOs. On the other hand, some of the most hard hit firms have also been around long enough to know how to survive the toughest of times, and we will no doubt see many more steps up this year, too. However, a significant turnaround in the funding environment, when it comes, will be too late for some, and expect to see the much awaited consolidation appear and spread across multiple categories at some stage. An aspect we have not covered here, founder exits, is also set to continue, as many founders seek a break from the relentless pressure of running a firm that cannot slow down.