WALK INTO ANY one of the many start-up events
organized across India, and inevitably the image of an
Indian bazaar comes to mind: people rushing around,
shouting, bargaining, answering phones with great
excitement, laughing loudly, boasting, blushing,
and generally being optimistic, as if they are at the
beginning of a rising trend of well-being.
Such optimism might seem justified. According to
data compiled by Fortune magazine,a from just eight
‘unicorns’ in 2015, the number of start-ups in India
valued at more than $1 billion has grown to 26. What
is interesting is that in 2018 alone, India added
eight unicorns to the club.
These include diverse entities such as Ola, started
in India as a competitor to Uber and has since
expanded its footprint into the U.K. (and is
eyeing Australia); an insurance
aggregator called PolicyBazaar; the
e-commerce site Paytm Mall; an
eyewear retailer called Lenskart;
food technology aggregators such
as Swiggy and Zomato, and hotel-room aggregators like OYO and
Thousands of entrepreneurs
start up every year and aspire to
become one of the new unicorns.
Venture capitalists invested over
$20 billion on start-ups last year,
and evidence suggests they are
likely to invest much more by the
end of this year.
The rise of the Indian start-up
ecosystem can be characterized by
three major changes over the last
1. A shift from models copy-pasted from elsewhere to the creation of
models built for India.
2. A move from the IT services
model to technology products.
3. A statement of intent from
entrepreneurs that the time for
Jugaad is over, and cutting-edge
innovations are where the future
lies. The Hindi word Jugaad roughly
translates as “to work around.”
The notion was a result of resource
constraints faced by a number of
enterprising Indians, especially
those living in rural areas. Jugaad
is a well-researched theme and has
been extensively documented by
Navi Radjou,b a French-American
scholar based in Silicon Valley, in
his book Frugal Innovation.
These changes offer interesting
insights for the start-up ecosystem
in India and across the world.
From ‘Copy-Paste’ Models
to Local Innovation
The current crop of Indian start-ups
trace their origins to the mid-1990s
and late 2000s. They were driven by
entrepreneurs and venture capitalists (VCs) from the U.S. (Silicon Valley, in particular), or were heavily
BY CHARLES ASSISI, AVINASH RAGHAVA,
AND NS RAMNATH
of the Indian